As of late, I have been admiring how beautiful the leaves are. Because I live in New England, I often take the foliage for granted, oblivious to the fact that leaves are changing around me. But one day the Lord opened my eyes to notice their beauty, and in that moment I thought, “How can something dying be so beautiful?” It was as if I was looking at the leaves for the first time. While looking at them, I was reminded of the Cross of Christ.
My family celebrated five years in Uganda last week. We left a beautiful house (okay, it was a drafty 1955 ranch, but we loved it!), and a vibrant community of believers. We left a family who is crazy about our children and us. We chose to raise our children in a place where other kids scream “mzungu” (white person) at them, and try to steal their toys. There are no soccer leagues or gymnastics classes, and there are no air conditioners to shelter you from the equatorial sun. This might be understandable if we had been kidnapped by pirates and sold as slaves on the black market, but why would anyone (including our family) choose this kind of life?
The Wealthy Christians Responsibility
I remember making my first $25. I was 13 years old. An older couple offered me the opportunity to mow their yard. It was the biggest milestone in my life up to that point. My first job. That following weekend, my dad helped me load our push mower into the back of his truck and he drove me over to the ‘job site’.
Boldness to Speak: An Excursus on Paul
After my last post on “Boldness to Speak” I felt I should to take a brief excursus into Paul the apostle and the importance of boldness and speaking in his ministry. I ended the last post with the need for us to pray for the Spirit to release boldness in our hearts by giving us confidence of the truth of the gospel. So I begin here, at the same point, by looking at Paul’s words to the Corinthians.
Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. (2 Cor. 4:13–14)
If you’ve ever been part of a missional church or attended a missions conference, you’ve undoubtedly have heard the call for laborers to be sent out to the hardest and darkest places on earth. Your heart feels like it is pulsating with the very heartbeat of God for the lost as you take in everything you’ve just heard. But there is something inside of you that says, you are not going. At least not yet. Commitments you’ve already made, family situations, the stage of life you are in, all come to mind. But most importantly, although your heart is now gripped with these realities, you haven’t felt a clear call from the Lord to go to the front lines. So you count yourself out and chalk it up as a great service or event. But what if there was more to reaching unreached people groups other than physically moving to Sub-Saharan Africa? What if you were given the opportunity to lay down your life by being a sender? Would you take it?
Boldness to Speak
Boldness precedes speaking, and speaking is the God-ordained means for the nations to obtain salvation.
Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)
You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God….this word is the good news that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:23–25)
I am an introvert; small talk (or big talk) have never been my comfort zone. The first time I had to give an off-the-cuff talk in my preaching class at Bible school, I completely froze. Before that, when I attended community college, I was like the flighty shadow of Peter Pan. I didn’t make friends and I didn’t share the gospel, at least not a lot. Up to today, I sometimes experience spells of dizziness and dry mouth. It’s as if someone put a spoonful of peanut butter in my mouth, threw my thoughts in a blender, and then said “go ahead, speak your mind”. I have developed ways of pressing through these experiences but they can be humiliating, debilitating, and frustrating for someone who does a lot of public speaking. I am in no way a person disconnected from fear and timidity. Ashamedly, I have wrestled with timidity more than most people know, and, like in college, it absolutely hindered the gospel working through me.
Courage is a Command
Before moving to Kenya I went on an extended fast. I found myself praying constantly about protection for my family. The terrorist group Al-Shabaab was on my mind. Others had suggested we move to a different location in Kenya, away from where they were active. But we were certain of God’s direction to this particular location in spite of its reputation. Daily this was my concern until one afternoon I felt a particular sweetness from the presence of the Lord. I began to weep as the words of Jesus thundered in my spirit “of how much more value are you than the birds” (Lk. 12:24)! The Lord was not directing this at me per se, but was saying it about my wife and children. I could entrust them into his hands. He cared for them more than I did. The next morning my oldest daughter and I were reading our prescheduled devotions. Amazingly, it was from Luke 12.
I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:4-7)
Boldness is a gospel imperative. This is seen in Jesus’ words “do not fear” and “fear not”. The basis for this is that the only one who has final authority over your soul is God. And what happens to your mortal body in this world is not the end all.
Fear is a great enemy of gospel advance. Boldness is the gift of God to overcome this enemy. Boldness is confidence in the gospel, a message that defies fear to the uttermost.
I am burdened, of late, to study and write on this topic because of the mounting threats i see the enemy posing toward Christians. Persecution is on the rise as Islamic fundamentalism continues to expand. The field with greatest missional need, the Islamic world, is also the most dangerous.