We were in our second year of the ministry in Africa with 30 student missionaries committed to prayer, study of the word, fasting, and reaching the unreached. It was December and the money we expected to receive for support had already come in. There was nothing left. Our only vehicle, a 1994 Toyota van, was on its second engine and was broken down in the shop. This meant that there was no van for the school and not enough money for starting again in January. Maybe we needed to just shut it all down.
He who suffers in the flesh has ceased from sin. (1 Peter 4:1)
It often happens in the Christian life, that people want the easy way out when dealing with their sin. We want to be instantly delivered from our cravings and appetites, or as Paul the apostle called them, “the passions of our flesh” (Eph. 2:3; Gal. 5:24). However, there is no easy solution to overcome sin in our lives. We will have to suffer. Even Jesus, though he never sinned, was not exempt from this truth. The Bible tells us that Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered (Hebrews 5:8). There are no shortcuts here to overcoming passions; we will have to pick up our cross and follow Jesus.
Since thou art vainly urgent that, as thou sayest, I should swear by the fortune of Caesar, hear me declare with boldness, I am Christian!1
Polycarp and Christian Boldness
Polycarp, Church Father and bishop at Smyrna, rails against the proconsul in Rome. The story describes how people heard a voice from heaven when Polycarp was entering the stadium, “Be strong, and show thyself a man, O Polycarp!” And Polycarp faced his death with courage and strength. They decided to burn him alive and he requested that they refrain from nailing him to the wood, “Leave me as I am; for He that giveth me strength to endure the fire, will also enable me, without your securing me by nails, to remain without moving in the pile.” They did this and, to our great benefit, a prayer was recorded of Polycarp as he lay there waiting for the fire. This prayer reveals the key to boldness.
Every single day we see acts of mass violence or senseless, brutal murders of innocent people taking place all over the world. The multitudes, along with world leaders and politicians, are crying out for peace, but for the moment it’s falling on deaf ears. There is an atmosphere of uncertainty and many are questioning the safety of the world that we live in. No doubt, the world has always been a place of chaos, but many are no longer thinking, “that will never happen to me.” In fact, just the opposite is true. Many are realizing that they are not as safe as they once thought.
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?