Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ari and Whitney at Christmas

We had our staff Christmas party last night. We had it at one of those Japanese Steakhouses that cooks at your table. You know the ones...they twirl their spatula and fork all over the place and toss them in the air and catch them behind their back. When they get done with the tools, they begin with the food.

They make chopping food and cooking into an art form, with onion towers that flame, shrimp slicing and tossing. You get so entranced in watching the knives move that you miss some of what they are doing. I did see a shrimp tail get tossed into the air and land in his pocket. Another time he caught one in his hat. The part our chef seemed to enjoy the most was when he tossed a stray shrimp tail over to the next table into the food preparations of his neighboring cohort. His friend was not amused.

This particular restaurant was called a "Fantasy" Steakhouse. We enjoyed the experience, but decided we must have been responsible for bringing our own, as none played out in our presence...unless that whole experience was in our still full tummy suggests otherwise.

For many, a full tummy IS fantasy. A full heart is not even among their desires. Most do not even realize they are lost. In no way do I mean to make light of their situation. Rather, I am overwhelmed at their need. That point was brought home to me this morning, as I read an email message from a good friend who is serving as a missionary in the middle east.

I would like to share that with you today. As you read, keep in mind the following abbreviations: JC = Jesus Christ, Mu = Muslim, and Sh = Shiite. She is serving part of her term in closed countries, and must be careful with her language.

"Hello all my dear family and friends,

I am so sorry that I have not written you sooner to tell you that I made it safely back from Iraq.
[she made it back to her home in another middle eastern country]

I honestly didn't know how to put into words what I experienced, on top of the fact that I was fighting some depression upon my return and in turn also lacked the motivation to contact you.

This has been an interesting season in my life. I'm facing some major questions that I've only tasted before.

I'm standing toe to toe with the vast lostness of our world and it has overwhelmed me to my core.

I spent a good portion of my time in northern Iraq with one of the most precious families I've ever met. They took me in as one of their own and provided over and above for all my needs. Although I was alone with them and my Arabic is very limited and they could speak hardly any English and only spoke some Arabic which was with an Iraqi dialect, we had a wonderful time together.

On my last day with the family I met one of their really old relatives. When I first saw her and went to greet her with kisses to both of her cheeks, she quickly grabbed my right hand and would not stop kissing it.

I was a bit embarrassed that this little sweet old lady would not allow me to pay her the proper respect, so I kept trying to grab my hand back. But, she would not stop.

Finally though, she quit showering my hand with kisses and we were able to sit on the floor together and eat a huge meal. After the meal I went to leave and when I said good bye to her she grabbed me. She put her soft wrinkly hands behind my head and she said a lengthy blessing over me.

As I walked away from her I didn't know how to feel.

This precious old woman has more than likely NEVER heard about the saving grace of JC. There's a good chance I'm even the first Believer she had ever met. And it's probable that she only has a couple of years left on earth.

When will she get the chance to hear about who Jesus really is?

Who will tell her?

During my time in Iraq I saw so many people and cities that have had little to virtually no exposure to the Gospel message.

How can we live normally knowing about the dire lostness of all these people?

How can so many people die daily without ever hearing about Jesus' love and we not even be brought to our knees by this?

My heart isn't just broken over Iraq, let me tell you, lostness is not an isolated problem.

And the there are other huge issues people face in this region besides just hearing the truth.

Just a couple days ago I was visiting with a good friend of mine who is my age. He is a Sh Mu who now follows JC. I asked him if he has told his family about his relationship with JC and he looked at me and said, "If I tell my family my brothers will kill me."

What can I tell my friend?

There are tons of other people I want so badly to tell you about.

There are beautiful women who accepted JC when they were younger and because of that commitment they were unwilling marry Mu men. Therefore, now they are beyond marring age and will never be married, even though that's their hearts desire.

There is a man who came to know JC personally after searching for God in anyway he thought possible, when JC appeared to him and laid the mans head on his chest. This man says that at that very moment he knew he would never need food again, he would never need clothes, from that second on he knew that he would have no needs ever again.

There are other people being dying because they love JC.

And what are we doing?

When will we get serious about the vast lostness of this world?

When will we love God and his peoples enough to care more about them than ourselves?"

The heart cry of the lost will come mainly to the American public through those who have tasted it first hand. If we refuse to be moved by the Holy Spirit to action, many will perish apart from the saving knowledge of Jesus.

When will be as a Christian people, care more for the needs of others, and less for our own?

Yes, it is good to celebrate the birth of our Savior with family and friends. But we cannot also then sit back at our leisure the rest of the time and expect others to fulfill the call the Lord clearly provides in His Word.

If you cannot go, there is still much you can do. Pray for, send and educate others.

If you can go, then the time is passed when we can continue to delay the call we have already known in our hearts.

I praise God for the wake up call of my friend. Many nations are in the same situation (including our own), people dying daily, apart from Christ.

Let us, then, be found faithful and obedient. Let us then, GO!



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