Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hearts of Obedience!

the "tell" my son displayed when nervous...

When he returned from his first trip to Peru, and was waiting for us to recognize him among his teammates in a hotel in St. Louis, his hair had grown long, and a full beard had come in, he looked like a man, yet this is how he stood. This picture was taken about 7 months before his first trip.

An amazing thing happened last week.

A simple act of obedience (which really isn't so simple) resulted in an incredible blessing!

A dear couple came into our offices, after requesting to meet. They are in their 30's and have been seeking hard after our Savior over the past couple of years. They have been believers for many years, but have been responding to the Lord's challenge in their lives to be fully surrendered before Him.

I think we often look at this challenge and believe it to be easier than it actually is.

What they did, I do not recommend apart form His direction. What they did was the result of His working in their lives in power and through clear direction. They responded to Him with an obedient heart.

However, the decision they arrived at was far from a simple one.

The decision would seem completely foolish by the world's standards. For that matter, it would seem foolish by the standards of most Christians. I wonder how many of us can see ourselves doing what they did, should the Lord call upon us to do so!

The Word of God teaches us to pray, "give us this day our daily bread" Lu 11:3.

The fundamental purpose of this is to show us that our full reliance for each need, each day, is to be upon Him. If we are completely surrendered and following Him, He will take care of the details of our lives. That does not mean we will act foolishly or make decisions without consulting Him. He wants to be an integral part of our lives and involved in each step.

Mtw 19-21 says, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

This passage, likewise teaches us that we are not to build up a life filled with comforts and miss His purpose for our resources, our wealth. He even teaches us throughout the New Testament to use the wealth He has provided to meet the needs of those who are without.

However, few truly live this way. Most work a lifetime, building a nest, and preparing to use resources for a comfortable life or retirement. Many want to pass on significant sums to their children. Few understand what it means to depend upon Him for daily bread.

In our coutnry, we believe the idea of not stowing away significant sums is foolishness.

What are we to do with what Scripture teaches? Even Joseph followed God's heart in storing up grain, but because a time of drought was coming when there would be no daily bread without proper preparations. So do we assume that drought will always come, and store up for that day, regardless of what else Scripture teaches?

We are a wealthy nation and the resources at our disposal are to be used to multiply His kingdom. It is the reason we have been so blessed. Are we blessing God's heart by following Him in obedience to His Word?

This young couple did just that. Through a couple of months of prayer and working through fear, they arrived at our offices. They began to tell us their story by way of what God had laid on this young businessmans heart. They walked us through the sometimes painful, sometimes tearful, sometimes elation filled journey of what God was doing.

To give up what has been stowed away for that "in case we need it" rainy day or season of drought does not happen without serious considerations. This is something they do not even feel able to share with their families for fear of grossly negative reactions.

Let's keep in mind they were being obedient to what He called them to do. This was not some frivolous, foolish whim they acted upon to seek God's blessing. Rather, they stepped out in obedience to what He called them to do, cleaned out their savings, and showed up on the doorstep of our offices to give what God had told them to give...with a promise of more, based on what He had told them...more that they do not currently have.

The sum they handed us, was the single largest donation our ministry that has ever been given.

It was given in cash. I believe it was symbolic for them to actually hand over cash rather than a check. The weight of the bills and the amount of room it took in an overstuffed envelope was significant.

Please understand that they already give. They tithe at their church. They give gifts and offerings to our ministry. They are responsible for sending a significant number of students to the mission field. They give till it hurts! They have downsized their home and lifestyle to be able to be in a position to bless...the heart of God. And they have!

We were handed, $25,000 in cash!!!

This money will be utilized to fund the work of reaching the lost around the world!!!

The needs in this nation and the nations around the world are great. What more can each of us do to minister in obedience with our time, and our resources? Walking in obedience brings Him glory. Glory He is due!

He is worthy of our sacrifice! I praise God for those who walk in obedience! My heart leaps with joy to see such surrender!


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Following Him, no matter the cost. My life is not my own...

Recently, I was viewing a video from a mission trip Deanna and BJ took together. I found the scenes with him present, and hung on his every word and movement.

There were scenes where he was painting, cheesing for the video camera, teaching a Bible lesson to children of an apartment complex, playing games with them, loving on them, interacting with his team, giving a back rub to my good friend Lowell, and testifying to the things he learned while on mission that week.

A piece of that testimony and other clips are included in the youtube version of "I Would Die for You" (I also share this video as I travel and speak).

As I watched, I laughed at his sense of humor, and the way his quick wit disarmed others. I tend to forget that part of him. Being his dad, I guess I focused more on other areas.

I was blessed at one point as I could hear him talking off camera about me. I don't know what he was saying, but he seemed to be asking my friend Lowell a question about me. He wasn't being rude or ugly, lol. I was so thankful to catch this, as I had never heard it before.

I watched with anticipation as I thought I recalled getting a hug from him at the end when I picked he and Deanna up. I even caught a portion of our reunion when he was sporting the pink shirt that he bought to get a rise out of me. He was so proud of himself. This act would spawn the pink "prayforbj.com" t-shirt craze that would ensue later.

I wanted to feel that hug as I waited for the footage to role. I couldn't wait!

I must confess, the last time I watched this video, was years ago. Because of this, new things jumped out at me. Things I took for granted before.

I must say, I am just so very thankful that this video exists! Our then pastor, Larry Floyd, shot most of the footage. I loved hearing the banter between Larry and Beej. How incredible to hear his voice again!

As I watched, my breath was stolen as the scene I had anticipated finally arrived.

All I remembered was the embrace between us.

What I did not remember, was who else was in the viewfinder.

When the camera panned over to us, there we stood, arm in arm, only both of my arms were around him. My daughter Lauren was also next to me. This is not what took my breath.

What I did not remember was that we were having a conversation with our dear friends Nate and Amy (Lowell's son and daughter-in-love). They were inviting us to their home that evening!

My dear friend Nate went home to be with Jesus (and Beej) last October 5th. A significant lump resides in my throat even now.

I was so blessed to hear his voice again! I remember how much he loved my son, and he made sure BJ had the resources needed to get to Peru both years!

Deanna and I made a trip to Indy last month. We stayed with Nate's parents.

This unusually warm spring had brought about a significant event. The tree we planted in Nate's honor last October, was in full bud, and began to explode into bloom!

The mercies that the Lord allows us to experience always catch me off guard! It shouldn't be so, but it is.

I am so thankful for this video. It is a treasure of unspoken worth!


Monday, April 02, 2012

Connecting with the culture in North Africa

I have a dear friend who serves in Central Asia as a missionary. I am sharing one of her stories, as written by an International Mission Board writer. The name used in the story is not her real name (If you know who she is, please do not use her name in any public correspondence).

The darkness there is deep, but her presence is truly reflecting His glory. It is a very difficult place to be, spiritually. Please pray for her as she continues to share truth there on a weekly basis.

Intense demonic battle meets Gospel in Central Asia
By Ava Thomas

CENTRAL ASIA — Lizzie Francis* huddled in the back seat and watched as the gang formed around the pickup truck.

She clutched her friends’ two toddlers as one of the men, flanked by his brothers, got out a gun and waved it at his neighbor, yelling obscenities and threatening to end his life.

The neighbor had been parked in the street in his way when his family came back from a picnic in the countryside. At the picnic, Lizzie had been their guest for the day, for the eating, laughing, dancing … and now gun-slinging.

“They are incredibly hospitable,” Lizzie said of the people in the Central Asian city where she lives. “But the darkness is under the surface all the time, just waiting to come out.”

As she prayed over the little boys, one of the sisters — Lizzie’s closest friend in the city — swiped her brother’s gun and slipped it quickly into Lizzie’s hands.

“Hide this,” her friend said. “He won’t come after you if you have it.”

They wouldn’t dare hurt a guest.

She slipped it in her purse and turned to head toward the house.

And as she did, he tackled her friend facedown in the muddy street just behind her, beating her with his fists over and over and over.

“I could only watch as it happened. I didn’t know what to do,” Lizzie said. “They need Jesus so desperately. Until they know Him, they will never know how to love even their own family.”

Alex Franklin*, who lives among the same people group, said it’s like tea — the people have been steeped in darkness for so long that they can’t become pure water without a miracle.

“Islam has had a stronghold in the culture there for 1,400 years. If you’ve been told a lie long enough and loud enough, you eventually believe it,” he said. “But even more of a stronghold than the religion is the culture — it tries to stifle and shut out anyone who speaks the truth.”

Some days the darkness presses on Lizzie so hard she literally feels a weight on her chest.

Some days it manifests itself in other ways.

“We went recently to visit a woman who was genuinely asking questions about the Gospel — something that rarely happens here. While I was trying to share, her children were acting so badly — being violent and unruly in a way that we knew was much more than just misbehavior,” Lizzie said.

After a lot of struggling, the 5-year-old son sank his teeth into Lizzie’s friend Jane* as she was playing with him. She rested her hand on his shoulder and prayed over him silently.

“I prayed in Jesus’ name for whatever was in him to get out. And right as I finished praying that, without saying a word out loud, he turned slowly and glared at me, as if he knew exactly what I was praying,” Jane said.

Alex said the believers who live there know that wherever they go, the darkness will lash out.

“We don’t have the home field advantage here, so we expect the crowd to be whooping and hollering against us,” he said. “We take faith in knowing that He has won the victory.”

The move of the Gospel among the people of that city is slow and hasn’t been going for very long, Alex said. “The darkness is smothering sometimes. It’s also physically hard on people who come here to share — many in the past died of diseases. And the mothers often struggle emotionally until they break, because culturally they are kept in the house much of the time.”

Lizzie, Alex and several others have shared the Gospel over and over and over. Few show interest. One friend who has heard Bible stories until she knows them by memory will seemingly get close to believing, then back away, Lizzie said.

“She will ask questions and read the Word even to the point of exposing herself to persecution from others,” Lizzie said. “But then she’ll ask me not to talk about Jesus in front of her, because she sees flames in front of my face when I do. There’s a real battle going on for her soul.”

And for the souls of the others there, but God is winning the victory, she said.

As Lizzie and others share, some hear and do believe. Some have given everything to Jesus and been forsaken by their families, imprisoned or even murdered.

“Jane and I were invited recently to the home of some friends. The husband is a believer, but the wife is not,” Lizzie said. “It wasn’t long before we realized a normal visit wasn’t what she had in mind.”

In front of the two guests, and in front of her own children, the wife began to berate the husband for his faith in Jesus.

“With a crazy, demonic look in her eyes, she forced him to say that he followed Jesus while she recorded his confession,” Lizzie said. “Then she turned to him and said, ‘I hope you die the same kind of death as this Jesus that you love.’”

It’s dark there, but faith persists, Alex said.

“Our encouragement is Scripture — we know that some day people from every nation, tribe and tongue, including these people, will praise Him around the throne,” Alex said. “God is calling people out. It just is taking a while.”

*Names have been changed.

Whether here or abroad, as believers, we must follow Luke 9:23:
"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."

If we don't, we are not being obedient to His clear call from Scripture. To reflect His glory, we must walk in obedience to His word!