Some things are convicting

Not long ago Rachel and I received a letter from our Gospel for Asia missionary in India (if you haven’t heard of GFA, go here and get your free book). As a native missionary, he has taken his family into the darkness of his region and faithfully followed Christ in his calling to preach the gospel among his people. But that’s (mostly) not the convicting part.

He talked about the last six months, how his daughter-in-law became very sick, but with much burden and prayer and fasting they brought her home and watched the Lord heal her. At present he is working in an area with a large Hindu majority. Already six famlies have shown interest in the Gospel and are attending prayer meetings.

“One day during outreach I met a man named Alberth. He was going through some mental tensions due to the sickness of his family members. He had no money for their medical treatment also. By faith he called me to pray for their healing. With some believers I went there and prayed for them. The Lord was so faithful, that He healed them completely. Now the whole family received Jesus Christ as their God and are attending our worship service. Praise the Lord.

Though it could be, that’s not the convicting part, either. That part, the part that convicts me, is the part that I easily passed over the first time I read his letter. I didn’t notice the depth of his words as they practically weighed the page down.

There are two statements:

“In the last six months we as a church have distributed a good number of Gospel tracts and booklets. By our ministry many people are believing in Jesus, but due to the oppositions from the society, they are not able to receive Jesus as their Savior.”

And elsewhere

“Some people are believing in Jesus, but due to the oppositions from their family and relatives they are not able to profess their faith in Jesus.”

That is tough for me to swallow. They believe, but because they are not able to profess that belief (possibly because of fear…a profession like that would likely lead to being kicked out of their families, losing their property, or even death) they are not able to receive Christ’s gracious salvation. This is not a works thing – whereby the act of profession results in salvation – but a trust thing. Romans 10:9-11 says “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.'” Trusting that God is worthy of your trials is important to God, who happens to be worthy of so much more than anything this world can throw at you. This is hard stuff.

Hard and convicting, because I can see how many people in the west might let something like that slide. I fear we might forget the part about counting the cost. Even with far less persecution (though persecution of a different type), people in the church (or who just go to church, or who just say they go to church) are willing to talk all day about how great God is and how he blessed them with many blessings, and helped them get a good parking spot at the mall; but at work, or anywhere else, they are silent. No one but thier church friends have ever heard them talk about God, because talking about God might make you lose your street cred. People might make fun of you, or call you ignorant. They might believe in science or something like it, and question your scientific method. So we try to make our faith out to be a purely internal thing, where we can believe that God is worthy so long as we don’t have to prove it. Even when God corners us and sets before us a person who really wants to know God and wants us to tell them how, we focus in on the good (that is indeed good) but forget to mention the part about us being aliens in this world, that we are promised persecution, that we must endure in the face of it.

The worst part of our omission is that it keeps us from the best part of God’s promise to us. Sure, trials are hard. Persecution is tough. But God IS WORTHY of them! Until we are able to see God’s true worth, trials will continue to be trials. But the promise is so much better: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

This is not our baby

Just so we’re all clear…No, Rachel and I are not pregnant. This little baby belongs to some friends of ours, and we are incredibly excited for them. Not only are they awesome friends, but we have seen them trust in the Lord and wait on him for this very moment, and we rejoice with them in this wonderful blessing. I already love that baby, because I love my friends.

–Akward segue–

Lately, I’ve been spending alot of time thinking and praying about the church plant that Rachel and I are apart of. As a group we have already been through so much, experiencing the full range of emotions from elation to great pain. We’ve had healthy babies born contrasted by tragic pregnancy complications. In our core group, we’ve had the joy of making exciting unified decisions contrasted by crushing allegations of disunity and rebellion by outsiders. Some edified, some hurt.

And yet, through all of this – the joy and the trouble – there has never been any question of God’s goodness towards us, and the task ahead of us. I have been blessed to see how our entire group responds to those who are hurting. I love it that our response to allegations is most often humility. Most of all, I love how all of our circumstances have overwhelmingly led us to depend on God for everything. In the good times and bad, we know that the success of this new church will not depend ultimately on us (our wisdom, abilities, marketing) but on the power and will of God.

We love this church, and the people involved, but it is important for us to remember that its not our baby. And praise God for that.

Hurricanes & Perspective

Last week our church set up as a shelter for people in the Beaumont/Galveston area trying to get away from Hurricane Ike. While the circumstances were terrible, it was definitely a blessing for our church to get the opportunity to pour our energy and resources into meeting these people’s need. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the body worship the Lord with their hands, and even learning some things about just how worthy God is of our lives. Butch (my pastor) was telling us about a guy who had a (rather nice) cell phone stolen while he was helping out at the church. And this guy, before he had a chance to complain, had a chance to minister to a man who had just found out that his posessions were being stolen from his hurricane ravaged home. What a story. God deserves our worship so much more than we deserve our “stuff.”

The Man Himself

A friend of mine wrote something recently that reminded me of this experience, so I figured I’d take the time to write it out.

The following is true; just ask my grandma.

Back in February my mom, grandma and sister came down to College Station for a weekend visit. Being the good son/grandson/brother that I am, I took them around our fine town to see the sites. Eventually we made it out to the George Bush Library to walk around the pond and enjoy the sunshine. As we were getting ready to leave, we just so happened to see the man himself making his way toward us. George Herbert Walker Bush, President #41, with his wife Barbara and their small dog.

As he walked down the path toward us, we pretty much froze in our tracks. I mean sure, we were at his library and all, but I’ve been there plenty of times without seeing anyone of note. He came right up to me and shook my hand and asked my name; I introduced him to my family. They had just come from the Texas A&M vs. Nebraska basketball game only blocks away, and they were there to let their dog get some relief in the grassy lawn before they headed back to Houston. After several minutes, some other people in the area caught on to what was happening and a small crowd began to accumulate, so we thanked them for their time and moved on.

As we were leaving we passed a Korean couple walking down toward the pond. Korean, I remember, because the girl had part of the Korean flag on her shirt. I wondered if they would recognize 41 when they got to the end of the path, but the thought stopped there.

And as we drove away, it occurred to me that I have played this part before with a different cast. You see, I had the opportunity to shake George H.W. Bush’s hand and look him in the eye and hold his attention, and I made the most of it. How could I not? After all, he was the President of the United States when the Berlin Wall fell. The cold war ended on his watch. I know that I have never shaken the hand of a more influential man. But when I passed within feet of that Korean couple who may have known, but probably did not know who he was, I didn’t say a word. Didn’t want to bother them (by making sure they knew the rare opportunity before them). It was easier to just smile and walk.

I do this with Jesus, too. Sometimes even while I’m at his house. I walk away (sometimes wondering, sometimes not) without intruding on someone’s life to tell them who’s house they’re in and why he built it. I don’t want to bother them with something trivial like the “King of Kings” or the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” They might be put off if I try to make sure they understand that through Christ they, “being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

They might know him already anyway, right?

How many opportunities will we miss?

George H.W. Bush
George H.W. Bush