Friday, February 27, 2009

Blooming Their Little Hearts Out

On one occasion, my wife, Margaret, and I were walking on a small stone walkway in a little village. Between two stones, we noticed some small violets which were, in the words of Margaret, “blooming their little hearts out!” They were blooming even though they were “surrounded by stones” and no one was seeing them except God, but isn’t He enough? These beautiful violets were simply doing what they were created to do: to bloom where they were. We also need to do what God created us to do: to glorify Him even if we are in the middle of the AIDS crisis in Africa or working with street children in Manila. Even though we may be surrounded by the stones of life, God sees and isn’t He enough? May we each serve our Sovereign Lord among the masses of the world for His Gospel and His glory! For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Small Missions and Accountability

There are about 440 Protestant mission organizations in Canada and the USA where missionaries serve a minimum of four years. About one-fourth (121) of these missions have one to five missionaries! About 300 of the missions have 50 missionaries or fewer. Praise God for these small missions which have not let size keep them from moving forward in faith with evangelism, discipleship, and development to the masses of the world to the glory of God!

ACTION is a relatively mid-size mission of 250 members serving in 25 countries. Of the 440 international sending missions, there are 32 larger than ACTION (two at 251 to 300 missionaries, eight at 301 to 400 missionaries, eight at 401 to 600, eight at 601 to 1000, four at 1001 to 2000, none at 2001 to 3000, and two at 3000 to 4000).

The Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability (ECFA) was formed for organizations (not missions) in the USA. Instead of membership in ECFA, many missions are members of Cross Global Link (formerly Interdenominational Foreign Missions Association) or The Mission Exchange (formerly Evangelical Foreign Mission Association). ACTION follows the same financial guidelines as these mission networks and is also a member of the Christian Leadership Alliance, the Canadian Council of Christian Charities (CCCC), the Evangelical Alliance (UK), and the World Evangelical Association (WEA).

Most missions have not joined ECFA for several reasons: 1) it is not needed as most missions already follow ECFA guidelines, 2) all missions already have a reputable board of directors, 3) it is expensive and thus diverts funds from ministries to ECFA fees, when the donors have given for specific purposes, and 4) it is the responsibility of the board of directors to oversee the mission. Being a member of ECFA does not guarantee financial accountability; that is the role of the board.

Under the laws of the USA and Canada, each mission has a governing board of directors which enforces guidelines of operation and use of funds as required.

Some have asked why ACTION is not a member of ECFA. There are several reasons (as listed above), but one reason is how ECFA allows some of its members to use finances. For example, “. . . 30.9 percent of ECFA members spend more than 25 percent of their income on fundraising. Four members were above 50 percent, and two exceeded 70 percent” [Christianity Today editorial, May 12, 2004]. This use of funds would be completely unacceptable to donors or its trustees.

ACTION’s annual report, financial statements, independent audit, and Form 990 are available to the public on request. Specific questions are always welcome and responded to individually by the USA Director or Lead accountant.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

They're Nice to Me Here

On one occasion I was speaking at a mission’s conference in Mississippi. Early on that Saturday morning I took the pastor and his son out to a Southern breakfast. As we entered the restaurant, I noticed an old gentleman sitting in the lounge area and asked the waitress is she would seat him before she seated us. She informed me that “Charlie just comes in and sits there all day,” and that he was not waiting for a seat.

After about an hour of great Southern food, bacon and eggs, biscuits and gravy, and grits, I went up front to pay while the pastor went around the restaurant saying hello to everybody. As I paid, I noticed the man still sitting there. I walked over and sat down and said, “Sir, I noticed that you have been here for quite awhile. Are you hungry? Could I buy you a meal?” Right away he smiled and said, “No, I have eaten already. I just come and sit here all day.” I asked, “Why?” He responded, “Well, my wife died several months ago and I just want to be around people and I come here and people are nice to me.”

I asked “Who is nice to you?” He said, “Well, everybody, but mainly the waitresses and workers here at the restaurant.” I began to share the Gospel with him and he said, “I am a believer, I just like to be around people because I am lonely and miss my wife.”

This was in the state of Mississippi and all the waitresses and servers were black. Soon, another waitress came in the door she saw Charlie, came over and gave him a hug and pat on the back and said, “Good morning Charlie, how are you?” After their exchange, she went to work. As she walked away, he said, “See? They are nice to me here.”

So dear friend, do people want to be around you all day simply because “you are nice to them?” Scripture says that even though kindness is a fruit of the Spirit, practice needs to be our position. Paul says in Colossians, So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience… (Colossians 3:12, nasb).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Generosity and Hard Times

Several weeks ago a lady approached me in church with a gift of $1200 for the ministry of the Gospel and compassionate care to Children to Crisis in the Philippines.

I asked her how she and her husband could give such a large gift since her husband was losing his job soon. She simply answered, “Well, that is why we are giving it now, because next month we won’t have anything to give!”

Scripture says, But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also …For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich, (2 Corinthians 8: 7, 9, nasb).

So, dear friends, do we only give from our abundance, or do we give as the widow gave out of her poverty for the Gospel to the glory of God?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Why are we not more friendly and kind to others?

I am most likely coming to the end years of my life. I am 66 years old and probably do not have too many more years. I was supposed to die fourteen years ago with cancer as the doctors only gave me three months to live.

Today I was waiting at the pharmacy for a prescription. An older lady seemed quite distressed with problems and about losing some prescriptions. As she was leaving, I simply said, “I am sorry you are having such difficulty. Is there anything I can do to help?”

She immediately started to talk about how she lost her purse, how her medicines were not working, her diabetes count was up, and so on. She followed me as I went through the line and stayed with me until I got my prescription. When I was leaving she said, “Thank you for talking to me and cheering me up. I appreciate it very much!”

Our brief conversation probably irritated the other people in line, as the lady was quite loud. But so what! She was blessed in the Name of Christ for a few moments and I trust God will use this brief kindness in her life to manifest His glory.

So, don’t be like what my grandkids call a “grumpy gut”. Smile. Say Hello. Be friendly. As Christ has changed our life and given us a new life in Him, does the world see this change? Are we just as grumpy, rude, and miserable as the world, or do we have the joy of Christ evident in our life?

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12, nasb).

Friday, February 20, 2009

Blood on the Floor and Pigs Running Wild!

When I was a freshman in high school, trying to make my way through school not really knowing how to read or write, I always chose what I thought to be the easiest classes.

One class was an agricultural class and I even became a member of Future Farmers of America. In my English class, we all were assigned to give a demonstration speech on topics such as how to blow a trumpet, how to thread a needle, how to read a book, how to make a kite, and so on.

I chose a topic that I thought would be quite easy and fit in with what I was learning in my agricultural class and that was how to notch the ears of a pig.

So, on the day of my speech, I took a piglet to class; however this was a young pig, not really a piglet which was supposedly not to bleed much. However, as my friends tried to hold the pig while I attempted to cut the notches in the ears, the pig jerked causing me to cut a big hunk out of the poor pig’s ear! Blood went everywhere! The girls in the front row screamed and one fainted. The pig got loose, and while slipping and sliding on the blood on the floor, instead of catching it, I knocked over a desk. It was pandemonium!

Later, after being man-handled by my teacher to the principal’s office, the principal simply said, “Doug, you are nothing but trouble. You can’t even give a speech without causing a problem!”

Yes, I was trouble then, and as I became older, I became even worse in violence, thievery, and drunkenness. But praise God for His grace, when at age 21 someone shared with me the Good News of Salvation in Christ and in Him alone and I turned to Christ in simple repentance and faith. Someone said, “No one is so bad that he is beyond grace’s reach, or so good that he is not in grace’s need!

…so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:7, nasb).

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Do you speak Swahili?

Recently I spoke to a Swahili congregation in the Seattle area. It was very interesting to meet refugees from the African countries of Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, and other countries. Their common language is Swahili.

It was sad to hear of the difficulties these brothers and sisters face in the United States not knowing how to shop, what to wear, how to drive, how to speak English, and so forth. They are embarrassed and made fun of almost daily in their simple activities. One thing that made the difference in helping some to adjust to another culture was someone simply being kind to them coming alongside to help them in their adjustment time.

When we are out and about in our daily activities, it is very easy and simple to say “How are you? Where are you from? May I help you?” This makes a very big difference to these people! So, be kind and considerate to those from other countries. Be helpful! Who knows, it may open the door to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to invite others into your fellowship and church. Perhaps God would bring them to Himself through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and become members in your fellowship to the glory of God!

So, you and I may not speak Swahili but we can speak a word of kindness for the sake of Christ.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A little child ... waiting for someone to share the Gospel!

Recently, I read the following from the excellent book, Daddy, Are We There Yet (A global check-in on the world of mission and kids) by Sylvia Foth, Director of Kidzana Ministries. As you read this story, you will rejoice again in the sovereign plan of God of bringing a little child to Himself through the Gospel:

"A visitation team went out on Monday evening to spend some time with a sixth grade girl who had visited our church the day before. The team of two adults and two students were very excited about meeting someone new and watching for the opportunity to share their faith in Jesus. As they arrived they found the girl sitting on the steps outside her home: she was relieved to see them. She explained to the team that her mother was giving her the responsibility to choose her own religion. She had friends of many different faiths, and she couldn’t decide which one to follow. This girl was praying that the real God would send someone to explain the truth to her. Just then our team arrived. They were thrilled to explain God’s great plan for salvation and eternal life, and she prayed with them to trust in Jesus!"

I trust this will encourage you to be busy at your Father’s business of sharing the Gospel with all ages.

Doug Nichols

Daddy, Are We There Yet (A global check-in on the world of mission and kids), (Page 177)by Sylvia Foth, Kidzana Ministries

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Those Who Have "Cut the Coal"

During World War II, Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of England, was taken to the coal mines to speak to the miners. Understandably, they were in awe that he was even there, yet they too needed motivation to press on and to receive appreciation in a much-needed behind-the-scenes task. This man of great rhetoric spoke to these black-ashened face miners: "We will be victorious! We will preserve our freedom. And years from now when our freedom is secure and peace reigns, your children and your children's children will come and they will say to you, 'What did you do to win our freedom in that great war?' And one will say, 'I marched with the 8th Army!' Someone else will proudly say, 'I guided the ships that moved the troops and supplies.' And still another will say, 'I doctored the wounds.' They will come to you," he shouted, "and you will say, with equal rights and pride, 'I cut the coal! I cut the coal that fueled the ships that moved the supplies! That's what I did. I cut the coal.' "

We are thankful to you who have "cut the coal" with us in the ministry of the gospel to the needy and poor masses of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Thank you for "cutting the coal" with your prayers, for "cutting the coal" with your letters, for "cutting the coal" with your friendship, for "cutting the coal" with your support, and for giving your sons and daughters, parents and friends to serve the Lord. You, like the coal miners of the United Kingdom, are appreciated for your partnership in the great task of world evangelism, discipleship, and development for the gospel and the glory of God!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Prayers for Children

When A.T. Pearson visited George Müller one time at the orphanage, Müller prayed: "Lord, there are 2000 orphans who need breakfast tomorrow and we have no food. Would you provide for them please? Thank you very much." Perhaps our prayer should be: "Lord, there are 13 million orphans in Africa, 40 million street children in Latin America, and 1 million on the streets in the Philippines. Help us to reach them with the Gospel and compassionate care. Please raise up workers to minister to these children for Your glory. Thank you very much. Amen."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Neglect of the Poor!

Nathan Samuelson, a Puritan pastor in England, was a great spokesman for Christ who devoted his life and ministry to the poor. He established a network of clinics, hospitals, and rescue missions that in later years served as the primary inspiration for William Booth in founding the Salvation Army. In a sermon that he reportedly preached more than three hundred times throughout England, he said, "Sodom was crushed in divine judgment. And why? Was it due to abomination heaped upon abomination such as those perpetuated against the guests of Lot? No, says Scripture. Was it due to wickedness in commerce, graft in governance, and sloth in manufacture? No, says Scripture. In Ezekiel 16:49, Scripture says: Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it. Be warned by Sodom's example. She was crushed in divine judgment simply and solely due to her selfish neglect of the deprived and depressed.”

Bringing in the Sheaves by George Grant

Monday, February 9, 2009

Much Christian Music Not True

People get upset by so-called historical movies which rewrite history and don’t really tell the truth. Yet we as Christians do the same thing, especially in the realm of music. We sing songs which biblically are not true! The words look good, sound sweet, are very emotional, but theologically are just not true! We need to pray that God will raise up theologians to write good music — people who know the Word of God!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Knowledge of Cars or God's Word

On a Saturday morning radio talk show in the Seattle area, people phoned in to speak with an auto mechanic. It seemed like he had answers for questions about every car — Chevy, Ford, Toyota, Oldsmobile, Chrysler, and Buick. I was ashamed, wondering if I could answer questions with as much assurance and knowledge about the Word of God, doctrine, the nations of God’s world, and missions?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Little Girl Behind the Counter

I was having a cup of coffee and working on a few reports at a coffee shop near our office. The little seven-year-old granddaughter of the owner was singing behind the counter. I asked where she learned to sing. She said, “I learned from my uncle.” I said, “Where is he?” and she said, “He’s dead.” I said, “I’m sorry, but it was nice he taught you before he died.” “O, no,” she said, “he died before I was born.” “Well, how did he teach you then?” “Oh,” she said, “I inherited it from him!” May you and I be faithful in sharing the gospel to the masses of the world that they may inherit the gift, not of singing, but of eternal life!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

D.J.'s Favorite Part of the Story

D.J. (David Joseph, our grandson) and I were discussing “great theological truths” about the Lord Jesus Christ when he was 7 years old. As we were talking about the death of Christ on the cross for our sins, little D.J. looked up and said, Grandpa, that’s my favorite part of the story.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

This could be our last year

On one occasion, my oncologist said it was worth a million dollars to him to have one of his serious cancer patients respond to his care as I did. He called one night in a panic, saying tests showed my cancer had return with a vengeance. However, later tests proved the previous tests were mistaken! He and my surgeon once told me that my cancer situation was the worst they had ever treated! Even though I did not die thirteen years ago as expected, there is always the possibility that cancer can reoccur and this be my last year before glory. I was reading of the great commentator and Puritan pastor, Matthew Henry, who died in June, 1714. On January 1 of that year he wrote:

I this morning renewed the dedication of myself to God, my whole self, body, soul, and spirit. Father, I give Thee my heart; use me for Thy glory this year; employ me in Thy service; fit me for Thy will. If this should be a year of sickness and pain; if a year of family affliction; if a year of public trouble; if of silencing and suffering; bonds and banishment; if it be my dying year, welcome the holy will of God. If this is a year of continued health, peace and liberty, Lord I desire to be busy in Thy service, both in study and preaching, in entire dependence upon Your divine grace, without which I am nothing, and can do nothing.” That day, he preached a sermon to young people, from Proverbs 23:26: “My son, give me thy heart.” He then added in his diary the following affectionate and devout aspiration. “Lord, take my heart and make it such as it should be.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Hudson Taylor and the Great Commission

I have prepared a one-hour biography on the life of James Hudson Taylor (1832-1905), who began the great China Inland Mission (now Overseas Missionary Fellowship). He was one of the first to pioneer into Inland China, to use laymen in ministry, to allow single women to open up new areas, to adapt to Chinese dress, and to start an “interdenominational” mission. One of his most famous quotes is, “The Great Commission is not an option to be considered, but it is a command to be obeyed.” Taylor said he once thought God was looking for men strong enough to use, but he learned that God was looking for men and women weak enough to use.