Monday, August 25, 2008

What Kind of Reputation Do You Have?

Several years ago I proposed to the International Council of ACTION that we begin to prayerfully consider and look for the next International Director of the mission. A search committee was formed and each International Council member, director and leader of ACTION was free to recommend men to consider as the next International Director.

We were looking for a godly man who was sensitive, caring, zealous for God’s glory, passionate for evangelism and discipleship, and who had a special concern for the poor.

Everyone felt that Nelson Reed should be the next International Director and we asked him, but because of his commitment to ministry in the Philippines, he and his wife, Linda, declined. Nelson (who was serving as Associate International Director) and the other leaders continued to prayerfully look for the next director. However, we continued to ask Nelson and he continued to politely refuse.

As we began to look outside the mission to wonderful, godly leaders, each one said something to the effect of, “Why are you asking me? You have Nelson Reed! You don’t need me! You have Nelson!” What a wonderful reputation!

God continued to work in Nelson and Linda’s hearts and after three years, they accepted our invitation as they felt God was now leading Nelson into this position to the glory of God.

They asked for a span of two years before Nelson took over the position. It was great to work with Nelson during those two years of transition.

What reputation do you have? You may not have the gifts or calling of leadership, but you do have the calling to walk in the ways of Christ and to be a person as we read in Colossians 3:1, with a heart of compassion, kindness, gentleness, and humility. Let’s be the kind of people that are above reproach, who have a reputation that is glorifying to God.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Coffee Must Be Bad in Seattle

The things people will do to sell coffee in Seattle! It is so bad that some of the small little coffee stands can only sell it if the baristas wear bikinis or little or nothing. Their coffee must be really bad!

Even though we laugh or shake our heads in amazement, we do the same thing with the Gospel. It is free, glorious, saving, but we try to sugar-coat it with everything else, that instead of drawing people to the Gospel, it becomes a naked substitute.

Let’s remember the Gospel is the power of God to salvation. We do not have to add to it or take away from it. It is God’s power to bring people to Himself.

So friends, let’s not mess it up. Let’s, in simple faith, share the Good News of Christ with others, that they may be drawn to the Savior. We don’t have to run around half-naked to tell others of Jesus. Praise God!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What? $2.55 for a Little Cup of Lemonade?


On the way home recently, I stopped at a lemonade stand. The two little girls were so excited to have a customer! I asked, “How much?” They said, “Well, look at the sign.” So, I looked at the sign and could hardly read it, but it looked like it said $2.55. So, I said, “I just want a little cup of lemonade.” They said, “Okay, that’s $2.55.”

I asked, “How big is the cup?” One of them said, “I don’t know. What size would you like?” I said, “Those cups don’t look very big to me and I can’t afford $2.55 for a glass of lemonade.” One of them quickly said, “Okay, how about 55¢?” I said, “That sounds pretty good but can I see the lemonade?” She said, “Oh, no, it’s inside this container here.” I said, “Well, what color is it?” She said, “I think it’s pink.” The other one said, “No, it’s not!”

As much as I like to help little kids in their entrepreneurial efforts, I decided that since the two girls were arguing about what size it was, what color it was and how much to charge, I needed to keep going!

This may be a picture of the church these days. We have the glorious Gospel and are still trying to figure out how to present it; what color to paint it, and how big a cup to serve it in. It might be best to leave it as it is and do what the Word of God says and simply tell the Good News to people.

The Gospel is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes. It is the Good News of Christ and His death on the cross to pay the penalty for sin. Because of His grace, we can come to Him by faith. Now that is good news, no matter what color you paint it or what container you serve it in!

Jesus said, I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved…(John 10:9, nasb).

Monday, August 18, 2008

Only the Beautiful Lip-synch

At a past Olympics opening ceremony, a sweet, very cute little girl of about 7, 8 or 9 sang a beautiful song with several thousand other singers. It was later revealed that the girl was only lip-synching. The real singer was off-stage, as she was not attractive enough.

The government said that it was in the interests of the nation that they use a girl to lip-synch who had a “flawless image.”

Many of us are like the girl off-camera, not good-looking at all. In fact, we look in the mirror and say, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” And the mirror answers back quite quickly and loudly, “Certainly not you!” What is really bad is when the mirror continues to talk. It said to me the other day, “You look like you’re on your way out!”

Yes, many people have flawless images, but the majority of us are flawed, maybe not in our appearances, but certainly in our lives. Praise God that He chooses the weak things of the world to confound the wise.

But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong. (1 Corinthians 1:27, nasb)

So, whatever we have, flawed or good looks, let us magnify Christ. He is the altogether lovely One!

Friday, August 15, 2008

What is the Gospel?

by John Piper

What is the Good News (the Gospel)? It’s this: Although sin is great and universal and deadly (Romans 3:23; 6:23), Jesus, the Son of God, has come into the world to save sinners (Matthew 25:46). Christ died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3). God made him to be sin who knew no sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21). We are justified by his blood and reconciled to God (Romans 5:9-10). There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). The just has died for the unjust, to bring us into fellowship with God (1 Peter 3:18). This Jesus, Lord of the universe, has been raised indestructibly from the dead and cannot die or be defeated (Romans 6:9; Hebrews 7:16). The way to be saved by him is not works of merit, but faith in the God who justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5; 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9). No human has ever conceived the greatness of what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9).

(A Godward Life, Book Two by John Piper, Multnomah Publishers, page 151)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Would we dare say that the Emergent Church is not evangelical?

by Doug Nichols

When the Reformers in the 15th century coined the phrase evangelical it was because they reclaimed two truths ...

1. Salvation by Grace through Faith alond (and)
2. The Authority (inerrancy) of Scripture.

The Emergent Church denies the inerrancy of the Word of God and is close to doing away with salvation by grace through Christ alone.

So, may be when people ask us what we think about the Emergent Church, simply respond by saying, It is not an evangelical movement.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

You’re Just An Ugly, Old Woman!


But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, (1 Corinthians 1:27, nasb.

Years ago when I served with Operation Mobilization on a village evangelism team in India (before Margaret and I were married), an elderly, very poor lady came to faith in Christ.

Her Hindu family immediately turned against her, with one even saying to her very shamefully and degradingly, “You’re just an ugly, old woman!”

This new follower of Christ humbly answered, “Isn’t it wonderful that God could love such an old, ugly person like me? How God could love me so much that He sent His son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die in my place for my sin!”

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Speaking English Will Kill You!


I read the following from the Midwest Christian Outreach Journal recently about the importance of discernment. The brief article is as follows:

FOOD FOR THOUGHT ON DIETS & DYING

1.The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.

2.The French eat a lot of fat and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.

3.The Japanese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.

4.The Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.

5.The Germans drink a lot of beer and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.

Conclusion: Eat and drink what you like but learn a new language; speaking English is apparently what kills you.

One of the elements, perhaps the main element in discernment, is asking if certain positions and conclusions are actually true. Coming to a false conclusion that sounds good can have devastating effects particularly if used as the basis for future decisions.

Source: Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc. Journal, Spring/Summer 2008, p.19. http://www.midwestoutreach.org/

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Two A.M. Goodbye

Jeff Anderson, the ACTION Philippines missionary, and his wife, Mary Ann, recently said goodbye to their daughter, Micah, who is in military service in Iraq, and are packing this week to return to the Philippines. In a letter, Jeff states the following: “You’d think that after almost 23 years of service in the Philippines leaving would get easier, but it doesn’t. Pray for us because our hearts are torn with family, friends and colleagues scattered throughout the world. However, we wouldn’t want our lives to be any other way. We obey His calling joyfully as missionaries in the Philippines.”

This morning at 2 a.m., our niece and her husband returned to the Philippines for their life in ministry there. Later, around 6 a.m., another niece and her husband returned for ministry in Afghanistan. It was difficult for their parents but they released them in sadness and gladness to the ministry that God has called them.

Mom and Dad Jespersen used to say that it was always hard to say goodbye to the many missionaries and friends who passed through their homes, and, later, their children serving Christ throughout the world.

All of us have greatly benefitted from those who have said goodbyes, even in sadness. For example, the Apostle Paul said goodbye to his friends, loved ones and church in Antioch as he left for his first missionary journey, from which all of us have benefitted with the Gospel!

We can be most thankful for the goodbye of God our Heavenly Father to His Son, Jesus, when He sent Him to this earth to be born, to live, and to die that we might know the glorious Gospel of salvation by grace through faith alone, and inherit eternal life.

Because God said His goodbye, we are going to receive a great hello in glory!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Kent Fothergill and Older Missionaries

Several years ago, Kent Fothergill said to another ACTION missionary in Manila, “I want to die on the mission field. What greater joy could I have than doing what God called me to do and being where He wants me to be?” Kent died suddenly, two days later, of a heart attack at the age of almost 65! We are still in prayer for older (and younger) missionaries to take Kent’s place... long-term “older” missionaries in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Hudson Taylor was laboring vigorously on the mission field at age 69. J. Oswald Sanders ministered effectively into his later 80’s; and at age 85, Caleb wanted a mountain so that he could drive out a stronghold of giants. Yes, we want young people, but many “older folks” as well. Our prayer target is for over 200 additional missionaries. There is no reason they could not all be over 55 years of age! Why not?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Death of Father (we can trust God, even in death)

Let me mention something I wrote down soon after the death of my father several years ago: “My mother and I were with my stepfather when he died Wednesday at 3 P.M. I spoke Sunday morning three times in a church in San Jose, California. Margaret and I then drove south, eight hours to Indio, arriving at my mother’s house, then to the hospital by 11 P.M. Margaret was able to get some sleep as I helped my sister, Pat, with dad all evening. At 95 years of age, he was still strong, fighting the pneumonia in his lungs, thrashing throughout the night, pulling out his tubes, ripping off his oxygen mask, and crying out in pain. I held him through the night, his head resting in exhaustion most of the time on my arm. Monday, Margaret sang for dad through much of a hymnbook, and we prayed and read Scriptures at various times through the day. It was a difficult but great day. Tuesday morning (after speaking to a nurse of Christ and the wonderful difference between reincarnation and the resurrection), a little Mexican Christian hospital utility man stopped my mother and me in the hallway, took our hands and said, “I am praying for you. Remember God always accomplishes His purposes. He is in control. You can trust Him!” What a tremendous assurance and encouragement. (Later I discovered that this man, Jesse, had been in prison for 30 years and was gloriously converted when someone shared the gospel with him soon after being released.) Margaret and I were able to share the gospel with several in the hospital. People seemed to be extremely open to kindness and the Word of God or especially hard and bitter. A passage of Scripture that has been very encouraging these days is Psalm 138:8, ‘The Lord will accomplish what concerns (us).’ He is in control of each aspect of our lives for our good and especially for His glory!”

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

HE Makes the Wind Blow

by Vern S. Poythress

Storms and natural disasters proclaim the regularity of God

As if cyclones and earthquakes are not enough, the hurricane season is around the corner. The strongest hurricanes, in Category 5, have winds above 155 miles per hour. A wind like that produces a pressure of about 4 pounds per square inch, which may not sound like much, but it results in a total force of 3,000 pounds on a human being who stands in its way. That is fierce power.

Scientists can't stop hurricanes, but they can explain them. Huge wind spirals arise in a complex process starting with differences in air pressure produced by the sun's heat and evaporation in tropical waters.

The Bible says, He [God] makes His wind blow (Psalm 147:18). The wind—including hurricane wind—is His. It belongs to Him. And He makes it blow. Do you believe that?

Many people believe that some kind of God exists. But to them He seems remote. For practical purposes science, they think, has replaced God. The wind blows because of differences in air pressure. The nightly weather report explains it. And what the nightly weather report doesn't explain, the expert scientists could explain and explain in massive detail until your eyes glazed over.

So was it just a primitive mentality when the Bible said that God made the wind blow? No. The scientists still deal with the same God, the God who rules the wind. What the scientists investigate is the regularity and faithfulness of the way in which God makes His wind blow. He is so faithful and so consistent that you can write mathematical equations to describe it. And of course the mathematical equations come from man's mind being in tune with God's mind, and having the privilege of thinking God's thoughts after Him.

Modern man would like to forget God most of the time, and maybe bring Him in only for convenience, when he feels a sudden need for some sweet religious comforts. But the real God is not comfortable. He is the infinitely powerful and sovereign ruler, governing His wind in all its detail.

That is why the scientists' equations work.

This God brings us the spring winds and rains and May flowers. But He also brings hurricanes that exhibit the power of His word: The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; . . . The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire (Psalm 29:5, 7).

The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, empowers God's word, and so the Holy Spirit is behind the power of the wind that blows at the command of God (Ezekiel 37:9, 14).

We need to wake up to God's presence as He rules the wind, and stand in awe of His wisdom and power. Scientific explanations should remind us of the faithfulness of God's rule, rather than serving as a substitute for acknowledging Him who is the origin of the very possibility of science.

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host" (Psalm 33:6). "In the beginning was the Word (John 1:1).

—Vern S. Poythress is Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, where he has taught for 30 years
Copyright © 2008 WORLD Magazine
May 31, 2008, Vol. 23, No. 11

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Old and Ugly

On one occasion, I spoke to a large group of teenagers in a church in Detroit. In the beginning of my short talk I said something like, “I am sorry you have to listen to an old, ugly missionary.” One of the young people in the front row said, “You are not so old.” He didn’t say anything about not being ugly!

I phoned a friend recently whose grandchildren we had met the day before. One of the granddaughters answered the phone and I said, “I’m Mr. Nichols, the tall, ugly man you met yesterday.” She said, “Oh yeah, I remember you!”

On some occasion, I had settled down for a four-hour flight on a large DC-10 hoping to catch up on some reading. As the plane began to taxi down the runway, one of the flight attendants made her way down the aisle for her last check on the passengers. She suddenly noticed a lady with two babies, one without adequate seat belt security.

The plane was gathering speed so she quickly took the smallest baby from the mother and looked around for one of the passengers to hold it during take-off. The other passengers looked away, but I wasn’t quick enough! Catching my eye, the stewardess thanked me as she handed me the ugliest baby I have ever seen (excuse me for saying this). The baby was asleep, but did it ever make noise!

I began to read through the baby noises and 20 minutes went by, 30 minutes went by, and then 40. I finally got up and went looking for the mother. Finding her five rows up, I asked, “Is this baby yours?” She looked up surprised and said, “Oh, I forgot all about him!”

I have thought about this incident many times. Yes, we may be small in the world’s eyes and so ugly our own mothers forget us, but God’s arms are always stretched out to hold us, and He will never drop or leave or ever forget us!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Adoniram Judson, Gospel Cyclone

by Andrée e Seu

After Adoniram Judson went to Burma, neither would be the same.

The cyclone that hit Burma earlier this month brings to mind the story of Adoniram Judson, who around 1808 was studying at Andover seminary in Massachusetts when he read Puritan Thomas Boston and glowed hot for Christ.

If you sense a call to missions, and there's no mission board to send you, what do you do? You find friends and start one yourself. Congregationalists liked Judson. And Judson liked a girl named Ann, and asked for her hand in marriage, by a letter pretty much promising her father that he would "see her no more in this world."

Moreover, he told the old man, his daughter would know "the hardships and sufferings of missionary life, . . . exposure to the dangers of the ocean, to the fatal influence of the climate of India, to every kind of want and distress, to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death." The father consented, and so did Ann.

In January 1811, a French privateer captured their ship and imprisoned everyone. The next year Judson was ordained in Salem, and the couple booked a Calcutta-bound ship, hunkering down with a Bible for the four-month trip to fathom the doctrine of baptism. They arrived in India newly minted Baptists. The British East India Company, not friendly toward the United States in the year of 1812, handed them their hat, whereupon the Judsons moved to Burma, Ann miscarrying their first child on the way. They were told the place was impermeable to the gospel.

Judson knew Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, but Burmese was a tough case. He retained a tutor and studied 12 hours a day. Ann leaped ahead in fluency. Four years later Judson held his first worship service. He experimented with different customs for the gospel's sake (before anyone was emphasizing contextualization"). He built himself a zayat of bamboo and thatch by the roadside. He would sit in it and cry out in his best Burmese, "Ho! Everyone who thirsteth for knowledge!" The message was mostly met with total indifference. Judson baptized one convert in 1819. The couple's second child died.

Seventeen years into the work, a man with a printing press showed up and produced the first materials ever printed in Burma, including 800 copies of Judson's Gospel of Matthew translation. By 1823, Judson had completed translation of the entire New Testament; the church had grown to 18.

Enter the Anglo-Burmese War of 1824. Americans look like Englishmen, so Judson was imprisoned with other Westerners for 17 months in the vermin-infested "death prison" at Ava. The prisoners were force-marched barefooted, half-starved, and sometimes suspended by their feet. Ann, raging with fever and nursing an infant, visited him, exhorting him not to give up. Adoniram was finally released; Ann died in 1826, their third child six months later.

Judson gave up. He burned all correspondence that mentioned Jesus, he abandoned his translation project, and went off to live alone in a hut in the jungle. I learned in a sermon by Covenant Seminary's Bryan Chappell that what brought him back was news from stateside of his alcoholic brother's coming to faith in Christ.

Judson canoed down the Salween River back into the jungle to a tribe called the Karen, whose pagan traditions were strangely amenable to the gospel—they had a Creator of man, and woman from his rib; an ancient temptation and fall; expectation of a white man's appearance with a sacred parchment. Breakthrough. When Adoniram Judson died, there were 8,000 believers and 100 churches in Burma, which today, known as Myanmar, has the third-largest population of Baptists in the world, mostly the Karen and Kachin tribe.

Adoniram Judson. "Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy" (Hebrews 11: 35-38). They were fools for Christ (1 Corinthians 4:10). They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death (Revelation 12:11).

http://www.worldmag.com/articles/14076
Copyright © 2008 WORLD Magazine
May 31, 2008, Vol. 23, No. 11

Friday, August 1, 2008

You Are Not Very Smart, Are You?

On one occasion, I had arrived at the Manila airport after 30 hours of travel. Needless to say, I was exhausted. I was taken directly to a conference center, where I was to speak to a gathering of 300 workers with children in crisis throughout the Philippines. It was a special banquet and celebration that night, and I was trying to stay awake.

After eating and during the preliminaries of the program, I was reviewing the notes of my message. A choir from the CGM home of Joy, a local orphanage had sung and was standing immediately behind me, waiting to sing again. One of the little boys, named Raffy, about six years old, was an orphan living at the Home of Joy and was standing quite close to me. We began to talk. He reminded me of our son, Robby.

Raffy noticed I was reviewing some notes and said, “What are you doing?” I said, “Well, I am going over my notes for my message tonight.” He said, “You need notes when you speak?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “You’re not very smart, are you?” I laughed and said, “No, I’m not.” In his youthful innocence he said, “I don’t need to look at words when I sing. I just memorize them and sing.”

That night during my restless sleep, I thought of Raffy quite a bit. I telephoned my wife, Margaret, the next day and said, “God has given us two adopted children and perhaps we should think about one or two more.”

So, the next day I went to the Home of Joy and the director, who is a friend of ours, saw me coming, stepped outside and said, “No, Mr. Nichols. You cannot adopt Raffy.” I said, “How did you know I was coming to you to talk about adopting Raffy?” She said, “I saw how you and he were drawn to each other at the banquet last night.” 

I said, “Why can’t Margaret and I adopt him?” She replied, “Well, for one thing, you are too old! But seriously, we can’t release Raffy because the new law in the Philippines is that you have to keep families together and he has one brother and two sisters.”

We kept in contact with info of Raffy through the Home of Joy over the years. His brother became a student at the Philippine Missionary Institute and after graduation from high school Raffy studied automobile mechanics. Raffy and his brother and sisters continued on in the Lord and the Lord has used them for His glory. Raffy is now serving full time with Christian Growth Ministries (CGM) with the Home of Joy and is in charge of several projects for the ministry.

James 1:27 says, Pure and lasting religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to [care for] orphans . . . in their distress . . . .

No, I am not very smart, but I praise the Lord for allowing me to meet this little boy, whom God has continued to care for and work through to the blessing of others for His glory!