Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Price of Christmas

by John Richard, ACTION Missionary

Scripture Readings: Matthew 1:18-21; 2:16-18; Luke 2:33-35

Since we are called to celebrate a Christian Christmas, we need to remind ourselves of an important truth, namely, that there was a price to be paid by those connected with the Christmas event.

Nine Observations:
1. The parting that the Father underwent
2. The poverty that the Son embraced
3. The condescension that the Spirit showed
4. The shame that Mary endured
5. The stigma that Joseph carried
6. The anguish that the Bethlehem homes suffered
7. The interruption that the shepherds experienced
8. The trouble that the wise men took
9. The sword that Mary anticipated

1. The parting that the Father underwent
Of His own accord did God, the Father, part with His only begotten Son, the Son of His love. There was no other way to rescue fallen man. That was Christmas.

2. The poverty that the Son endured
God, the Son, had to vacate the richest place in heaven, even the bosom of the Father. Though He was rich, yet He became poor. How poor? Not as a king born in a royal chamber did He come. In lowly birth He came. So lowly that His cradle was the manger. His curtains were the cobwebs, and His companions, the oxen and the donkeys.

Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem homes was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity;
The foxes found rest and the birds their rest
In the shade of the forest tree;
But Thy couch was the sod
In the deserts of Galilee.

That was Christmas.

3. The condescension that the Spirit showed
God, the Holy Spirit, condescended to come upon a virgin, who like every other human, was stained with original sin. He had to purify her womb and make it meet to bear the Holy One, the sinless Son of God. That was Christmas.

4. The shame that Mary endured
Mary made her body available for the incredible thing to be performed in her and through her. An event that set wagging tongues cast aspersions on her chastity. That was Christmas.

5. The stigma that Joseph carried
Joseph fared no better than Mary. Undoubtedly, he had fathered Jesus ! It could not be otherwise. This palming off the responsibility to the Holy Spirit. Whoever can swallow such a story? Don’t you see Joseph could not after all put away Mary? That was Christmas.

6. The anguish that the Bethlehem homes suffered
The Bethlehem mothers had to witness the awful spectacle of seeing their two-year old baby boys slain under their very eyes. Screams of anguish arose from Ramah. Rachel was weeping for her children unrestrainedly. That was Christmas.

7. The interruption that the shepherds experienced
The shepherds had to act on the angelic announcement. For them it meant leaving their flock and going with haste to seek out the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes. They were prepared to have their normal pastoral life disturbed. That was Christmas.

8. The trouble that the wise men took
The wise men, too, took a long arduous journey. All the way from the East led by a star to a place they knew not where. More than that they presented the Babe with their choicest treasures: gold, symbolic of Christ, the King; frankincense, symbolic of Christ, the priest; and myrrh , symbolic of Christ, the prophet. That was Christmas.

9. The sword that Mary anticipated
Remember Simeon’s message to Mary at the Jerusalem Temple: “A sword shall pierce your soul, for this child shall be rejected by many in Israel …” That was Christmas.

What does Christmas mean to you?
A voluntary giving up of a prized darling?
A willingness to quit the comfort of security?
A willingness to be ridiculed and reproached for the sake of Christ?
A willingness to soil our hands with unlovely things?
A willingness to give of our sons and daughters to defend the cause of Christ?
A willingness to have the daily pattern of our lives disturbed?
A willingness to take hazardous duties?
A willingness to part with our material wealth?

If these be evidenced in you, then Christ’s coming is not in vain.

Christmas is really paying the price of Christian discipleship. And discipleship is an affair of great cost. It may cost a man his life; it may cost him lifelong separation from his nearest relatives; it may set him at variance with his loved ones; it may require him to pack up and go wherever Christ may send him; it will require of him the sacrifice of ease and self-indulgence; it will make demands upon his time, his money, his talents.

In short, he has to give his heart to Christ and make himself available to do His bidding according to His good pleasure.

“Tho’ Christ a thousand times
In Bethlehem be born,
If He’s not born in thee
Thy soul is still forlorn.” (Angelus Silesius)
-- John Richard

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Gospel and Compassionate Care for Global AIDS Crisis

The following statistics are taken from the book, “The Skeptics Guide to the Global AIDS Crisis”

1. “Nine out of ten children living with AIDS are African.” (page 11)

2. “By 2010, it is estimated that there will be 25 million AIDS orphans in the World. (page 17)

3. “Nearly 6000 young people, between the ages of 15 and 25, are infected every day.” (page 19)

4. “In African countries, studies estimate that between 19 percent and 53 percent of all government health employee deaths are caused by AIDS.” (page 21)

5. “Sub-Saharan Africa is home to just 10 percent of the world’s population and more than two-thirds of all people living with HIV.” (page 35)

6. “India has the largest number of people living with HIV outside of South Africa ― 5.1 million.” (page 53)

As a team, ACTION continues to emphasize the needs resulting from the AIDS pandemic in Africa and India. We are trusting God for many additional missionaries to serve in Malawi, Uganda, Zambia and India. ACTION is making a special effort through our AIDS & Orphan Crisis Care & Evangelism Ministry to reach as many as possible with the Gospel and compassionate care.

Statistics taken from “The Skeptics Guide to the Global AIDS Crisis
by Dale Hanson Bourke, Authentic Publishing

Monday, December 21, 2009

Child Labor 2

Around the world, many are involved in unreasonable hours of family-based responsibility. We met children who had never been to school, because they were required to watch the family’s small herd of goats for over twelve hours per day, every day. Or girls of eight or nine who had sole responsibility to care for a baby sibling all day, every day, while both parents worked.

At least 126 million find themselves in the worst forms of child labor: slavery, trafficking, debt bondage, and other forced labor. Some experience highly hazardous situations, such as working in mines, with chemicals and pesticides or with dangerous machinery. Girls from northern India have been sold to families from the Middle East as home slaves. Many children are unseen, laboring behind the walls of workshops, hidden from view in plantations. They might pick cocoa beans all day long, but never taste chocolate themselves.

In some parts of northern India, children are sold to pay off debts, their parents believing they are being sent to work in good jobs in other parts of the world. In fact, they are being sent into the trafficking industry to work as bonded slaves.

The most distressing and demeaning form of child labor is sexual exploitation. Over 1.8 million children are trapped in the sex trades: prostitution, pornography and other illicit activities. [UNICEF, Annual Report 2007.] The sexual exploitation of women and children is the third largest illicit industry on the planet (just behind the sale of illegal arms and drugs). [United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime, “Briefing Note 8: Statistics on Human Trafficking in South Asia,” UN-GIFT – Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking, (accessed August 11, 2008).] It’s lucrative for some. Life-shattering for others. [Pages 87, 88]

Source: Sylvia Foth, Daddy Are We There Yet? (A global check-in on the world of mission and kids), Kidzana Ministries, Mukilteo, 2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Child Labor

For some children, the abuse comes in the form of work expectations. Over 218 million children, aged 5-17, are engaged in child labor throughout the world. [UNICEF, “Child Labor,” (accessed June 20, 2007).] Perhaps you have seen some of them in a marketplace somewhere around the world, selling their wares: bags, newspaper for wrapping purchased items, tissues, bottles of water, or candy. They’re just trying to survive. [Page 87]

Source: Sylvia Foth, Daddy Are We There Yet? (A global check-in on the world of mission and kids), Kidzana Ministries, Mukilteo, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Teachers Who Change Lives

Children’s leaders, together with pastors and others in our believing communities, need to search for answers to these questions (and more that will be asked in the future) to fully equip themselves to serve children in this rapidly changing world.

What kind of teacher can help a child grow strong in faith for a lifetime? The story of Nehemiah offers powerful insight. Remember the story? As the people worked to rebuild the temple, they discovered they Book of the Law. It had been hidden away for years.

Nehemiah called all the people together. Ezra and his team of temple leaders took the lead. “They read from the Book of the Law of God, making clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read” (Nehemiah 8:8 NIV).

This is the job of our teachers. They need to know God’s Word deeply for themselves, then help children understand. Often, this means using creativity, humor, stories, object lessons, puppets, drama – whatever creative communication tools might be available – to help children understand the truth from God’s Word. The message needs to be translated into a language all children can understand. In every community I’ve visited, this always includes fun and humor.

So what kind of impact can this teaching have? Several verses later in Nehemiah, we read that the people wept. They repented. They understood the truth from God’s law, and wanted to live in new ways. The teaching resulted in a change of behavior. They were transformed.

Is this what happens when we teach? Is this the kind of teaching that takes place in our churches?

As people teach children, they also grow themselves. One teacher in Africa said, “I used to always narrate Bible stories to children every Sunday when I met with them, but now I need to help them apply the Bible truth of each story to their lives. This has changed my own personal life a great deal as well as the life of my children.”

I believe we need excellent teachers more than ever. Kids do not need simple childcare. They need prepared, trained, mature, knowledgeable, genuine, growing – and tremendously fund and enjoyable people – to help them grow to love Jesus the most. [Page 188]

Source: Sylvia Foth, Daddy Are We There Yet? (A global check-in on the world of mission and kids), Kidzana Ministries, Mukilteo, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Effects of War on Children

When my children were in elementary school, I never let them walk home from school alone. There were too many dangers on the way: bad people, fast cars, and other kids. My worries are nothing compared to those of mothers living in areas of war and conflict around the world.

In recent years, stories of “invisible children” have gripped our hearts. In northern Uganda, thousands of children travel by night to the cities to sleep. In doing so, they hope to escape being kidnapped to serve as child soldiers. At least 250,000 young people under 18 are exploited as child soldiers around the world.

In Liberia, during the civil war, we heard stories of children lured with the promise of a house, car, and steady income after their service. This was very appealing in a country with up to 90% unemployment. After enlisting, children were transported to a different country and trained in guerilla warfare techniques. Upon returning to Liberia as soldiers, still only children and young teens, many were required to prove their loyalty to the army by returning to their home towns to shoot a family member. Often, the assigned targets were their own mothers.

Others were kidnapped and forced to act as soldiers, spies, or slaves for older military members. both boys and girls have been targets, with boys being taught to kill, girls being forced to serve as slaves and to provide sexual services to soldiers. Millions of other children living in areas of war and conflict will never be asked to serve as child soldiers. They face other troubles.

Some will give their lives. “During World War I, civilians made up fewer than five percent of all casualties. Today, 75 percent or more of those killed or wounded in wars are non-combatants, with nearly half of the 3.6 million people killed in conflict in recent decades being children.” [“The World at War,”]

In 2007 almost 14 million people were forced from their countries as refugees. [US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, “The World’s Refugees, 2006,” World Almanac 2008, 850.] 14 million. Imagine if all the people of the whole nation of Guatemala were suddenly without a home – or everyone in the whole state of Illinois (including Chicago). The number is about the same. Where would they go? How would they live?

The number of people internally displaced (meaning they didn’t leave their countries, but still fled their homes) is 24.5 million, nearly twice as many as other refugees. These families are equally challenged.

Consider the impact for children. Their daily routines are disrupted. Children may not be able to attend school. Often their friends and support systems are missing. Many lose track of parents or family members as they flee. Families often lose their homes and belongings.

For many children, the invisible wounds of war leave the greatest mark. We heard of one young girl whose village was attacked by rebels. Residents were led into the center of town, where they were all slaughtered. Somehow, she survived, hidden under those who fell. After she was sure the attackers were gone, she freed herself, walking out across all the bodies.

Rescuers found her and were amazed. For weeks, she was silent about the ordeal. Finally, she began to share her horror. It was not the fear of being shot, or the feeling of being trapped in the midst of all the bodies that lingered. In her village, placing the bottom of one’s foot on someone was a sign of ultimate disrespect. Somehow, she could not free herself from the feelings of guilt at having walked over all those people she honored and loved.

Why doesn’t this madness stop? Around the year 2000, the UN created Millennium Development Goals with the aim of improving the world through human development by 2015. The goals were agreed to by the UN’s 191 member states. It was estimated that the goals for reducing poverty, child abuse, and disease, and also improving education, literacy, and health care around the world could be achieved at an annual cost of $40-70 billion. In comparison, global military spending in 2005 totaled $956 billion. [Associated Press, “Half of Kids Suffer War, Poverty, AIDS.”] (UPDATE: The world’s nations are now spending more than one trillion per year to wage our wars.) ["The World at War"]

Christians are at the forefront of peace and reconciliation movements. They’re active in serving refugees and displaced persons, they’re meeting needs where possible. But the global culture hasn’t changed. Stopping conflicts and caring for the children simply does not seem to be a worldwide priority. [Pages 84-86]

Source: Sylvia Foth, Daddy Are We There Yet? (A global check-in on the world of mission and kids), Kidzana Ministries, Mukilteo, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Few Suggestions for Living and Service (for new missionaries)

1. No Bible, no breakfast! Regular daily devotions. Be serious about this.
2. Read! Read! Read! Read good books and read the Bible through at least once
yearly! “Grow in grace and knowledge of Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
Someone said, “If
you do not read, you will not grow.”
3. Live by faith.
4. Build friendships with local believers, unbelievers and fellow
5. Network for the glory of God.
6. Preach the Gospel to others and to yourself daily.
7. Practice hospitality whether you are single or married. Do this often.
8. Love, love, love. Learn to love the Savior, love saints, and love sinners.
9. Put on humility daily. “… clothe yourselves with humility toward
one another, for God
is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” (1
Peter 5:5b, nasb).
10. Be a servant of Christ by serving others. You get the coffee and
tea for others;
make sure others have a seat and are served before you; open the
door for others.
Remember manners are “the kindness of Christ in action.”

Friday, December 11, 2009

HIV/AIDS & Disease

Over 38 million people live with HIV/AIDS across the world. Every minute of the day, 4 peopld die of AIDS-related causes, and 5 people are newly infected. It’s a battle that is really hard to win.

This would be a horrific problem, even if it only impacted adults, but it doesn’t. Worldwide, over 2.3 million children under 15 live with HIV/AIDS. What’s the nearest large city to you? Does this equal the population of that city? What portion? And every day, more than 1000 children are newly infected with HIV/AIDS. [UNICEF, The State of the World’s Children 2008, 21.]

In addition, at least 15 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS, most in sub-Saharan Africa. It is estimated that a child loses a parent to AIDS-related causes every 14 seconds. By 2010, the number of children orphaned by AIDS globally is expected to exceed 25 million. [UNICEF, The State of the World’s Children 2008, 21.] [Page 83]

Source: Sylvia Foth, Daddy Are We There Yet? (A global check-in on the world of mission and kids), Kidzana Ministries, Mukilteo, 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Should We Celebrate Christmas on December 25?

Well, it’s “the most wonderful time of year” again! That familiar phrase from the well-known Christmas song is at once both an exciting statement as well as a confusing sentence. Simply put, our world is a realm which is chronically drunk with frequent incremental celebrations throughout the year, most of which are void of any substantial purpose for our lives. And chief among those celebrations is the “Christmas” time of year.

The time of year of Christ’s birth can be deduced from both the Bible and secular history as NOT being during the month of December, let alone being specifically on December 25th! In fact, most conservative NT scholars say the time of Christ’s birth was probably springtime or an early fall event. The reason for the late December dating was no doubt a Romanesque touch which added yet another celebration to its calendar! I am sure that their thinking went like something like this, “Why not add another celebration to our pantheon of parties which celebrates the virgin birth of Jesus (which was really a virgin conception, not a birth)!? So, in considering the pagan origin of December 25th, is there still Scriptural warrant for celebrating the birth of the Son of God – especially at this time of year? The answer is a resounding yes!

There are two key texts: Matthew 2:9-11(esv) reads, after listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh; and Luke 2:18-20 (esv), And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

The shepherds were mere men. We are mere men, women and children. They praised God and worshipped at the news that the Savior of the world had arrived into His very own sin-soaked world (Colossians 1:16). Now that’s news to celebrate!!

Pastor Jerry Marcellino
Audubon Drive Bible Church

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Will We Reach Out to Kids as People Who Also Need Jesus?

When we ignore children, we not only miss the unreached, but also a large percentage of the potential Christian workers of the world. Nearly 10% of our total world population is Christian children (people under the age of 15). How many are growing in Christ? How many are getting to church? What else are all those children doing? Some may be too young to join in. Others are challenged by poverty. But millions are ready and waiting to be part of reaching our world for Christ. We need to nurture our children to become the next generation of leaders. [Page 75]

Source: Sylvia Foth, Daddy Are We There Yet? (A global check-in on the world of mission and kids), Kidzana Ministries, Mukilteo, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

Adopted for Life (The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches)

1. Abba Father
More important than your name, however, is hearing it called out by One you've come to know, or rather who has come to know you. When you see him for the first time face-to-face, when your legal adoption is fully realized, the Spirit within you will cry out, "Abba! Father!" And you'll hear another voice, louder than all the others, cry out the same thing. You'll turn to see him, the Messiah of Israel, the Emperor of the universe, Jesus of Nazareth. And you'll call him "brother." (page 43)

2. Slaves No More
The pull toward slave nostalgia is a real danger for all of us. Satan once held all of us in "lifelong slavery" through our "fear of death" (Heb. 2:15). The temptation for all of us is to shrink back to the petty protectors we once hid behind, to be slaves again to placate the Grim Reaper. That's why Paul could thunder to the Galatians, "Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?" (Gal. 4:8-9). Perhaps the most striking aspect of this rebuke is the apostle's insistence that the believ¬ers want to be slaves again. Why? They're afraid.

Jesus, by contrast, is pronounced the "beloved Son" of God, is likewise brought through the waters of baptism, and is then tempted by the Evil One to believe that a Father who promises ( him bread would give him only stones (Matt. 3:13-4:4). Listening to his Father's voice, even to the point of crucifixion and apparent abandonment by God, he "learned obedience through what he suf¬fered," and "he was heard" (Heb. 5:7-8). Jesus isn't fearful because he knows who he is. (page 49)

3. Satan’s War Against Babies
The demonic powers hate babies because they hate Jesus. When they destroy "the least of these" (Matt. 25:40, 45), the most vulner¬able among us, they're destroying a picture of Jesus himself, of the child delivered by the woman who crushes their head (Gen. 3:15). They know the human race is saved-and they're vanquished-by a woman giving birth (Gal. 4:4; 1 Tim. 2:15). They are grinding apart Jesus' brothers and sisters (Matt. 25:40). They are also destroying the very picture of newness of life and of dependent trust that char¬acterizes life in the kingdom of Christ (Matt. 18:4). Children also mean blessing -a perfect target for those who seek only to kill and destroy (John 10:10).

The demonic powers are, we must remember, rebel angels¬ - angels created to be "ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation" (Heb. 1:14). In rebelling against this calling, the servants are in revolt against the sons, and that kind of insurrection leads to murder, as we've seen in other con¬texts (e.g., Mark 12:1-12). As James tells us, our lust for things we can't have leads to wars among us (James 4:2). The same is true in the heavenly places. The satanic powers want the kingdoms of the universe -and a baby uproots their reign. So they rage all the more against the babies and children who image him. As the wisdom of God announces, "All who hate me love death" (Prov. 8:36). (page 64)

4. Protect God’s Children
The protection of children isn't charity. It isn't part of a politi¬cal program fitting somewhere between tax cuts and gun rights or between carbon emission caps and a national service corps. It's spiritual warfare.

Our God forbids Israel from offering their children to Molech, a demon-god who demands the violent sacrifice of human babies (Lev. 20:1-8). Indeed, he denounces Molech by name. He further warns that he will cut off from the people of God not only the one who practiced such sacrifice but also all who "at all close their eyes to that man when he gives one of his children to Molech" (Lev. 20:4). Behind Molech, God recognizes, there is one who is "a murderer from the beginning" (John 8:44).

The spirit of Molech is at work among us even now. Even as you read this page, there are bones of babies being ground to unrecogniz¬able bits, perhaps even a few short miles from where you're sitting. There are babies lying in garbage receptacles, waiting to be taken away as "medical waste." These infants won't have names until Jesus calls them out for the first time. There are little girls waiting in Asia for a knock at the door, for an American businessman who's paid a pimp to be able to sexually assault them. There are children staring out the window of a social worker's office, rubbing their bruises as they hear their mother tell the police why she'll never do it again.

Aborted babies can't say, "Abba." But the Father hears their cries anyway. Do we?
The universe is at war, and some babies and children are on the line. The old serpent is coiled right now, his tongue flicking, watching for infants and children he can consume. One night two thousand years ago, all that stood in his way was one reluctant day laborer who decided to be a father. (pages 65-66)

5. Adoption Culture in Churches
An orphan-protecting adoption culture is countercultural - and has been. Some of the earliest records we have of the Christian’s speak of how Christians, remarkably, protected children in the face of a culture of death pervasive in the Roman Empire. The followers of Jesus, though, did not kill their offspring, even when it would have made economic or social sense to do so. This is still distinctively Christian in a world that increasingly sees children as, a commodity to be controlled and, at worst, a nuisance to be contained. Think of how revolutionary it is for Christians to adopt a young boy with a cleft palate from a region of India where most see him as "defective." Think of how counterintuitive it is Christians to adopt a Chinese girl-when many there see her as disappointment. Think of how odd it must seem to American secu¬larists to see Christians adopting a baby whose body trembles with addiction to the cocaine her mother sent through her bloodstream before birth. Think of the kind of credibility such action lends to the proclamation of our gospel.

Adoption culture in our churches advances the cause of life, even beyond the individual lives of the children adopted. Imagine if Christian churches were known as the places where unwanted babies became beloved children. If this were the case across the round the world, sure, there would still be abortions, there would still be abusive homes. But wouldn't we see more women will¬ing to give their children life if they'd seen with their own eyes what adoption culture looks like? And wouldn't these mothers and who may themselves feel unwanted, be a bit more ready to hear our talk about a kingdom where all are welcomed? (page 79)

6. The Call to Believers
Not every believer will take a pregnant teenager into his or her guest bedroom. Not every believer is called to adopt children. But every believer is called to recognize Jesus in the face of his little brothers and sisters when he decides to show up in their lives, even if it inter¬rupts everything else. (page 81)

7. The Call to Compassion
Thousands of years ago, a man named Job recognized that his own judgment would have to do with his treatment of orphans. In the book of Job, the suffering man told God that he would neither withhold food or raise his hand against the fatherless (Job 31:16-22). Job said instead that "from my youth the fatherless grew up with me as with a father, and from my mother's womb I guided the widow" (Job 31:18). Why was this so? Job said, "For I was in terror of calam¬ity from God, and I could not have faced his majesty" (Job 31:23).

Joseph's faith was the same kind of faith that saves us. Very few, if any, of us will have a dream directing us to adopt a child. None of us will be directed to do what Joseph did - to teach Jesus Christ how to saw through wood or to recite Deuteronomy in Hebrew. But all of us are called to be compassionate. All of us are called to remember the poor. All of us are called to remember the fatherless and the wid¬ows. That will look different in our different lives, with the different situations and resources God has given us. But for all of us there’ll be a judgment to test the genuineness of our faith. And for some of us, there’ll be some orphan faces there. (pages 82-83)

8. Choose Peace, Life and Love
What if a mighty battalion of Christian parents would open their hearts and their homes to unwanted infants - infants some so-called "clinics" would like to see carried out with the medical waste? It might mean that next Christmas there'll be one more stocking at the chimney at your house - a new son or daughter who escaped the abortionist's knife or the orphanage's grip to find at your knee the grace of a carpenter's Son.

Planned Parenthood thinks "Choice on Earth" is the message of Christmas, and perhaps it is in a Christmas culture more identi¬fied with shopping malls than with churches. But we know better, or at least we should. Let's follow the footsteps of the other man at the manger, the quiet one. And as we read the proclamation of the shepherds, exploding in the sky as a declaration of war, let's remind a miserable generation there are some things more joyous than choice - things like peace and life and love.

9. Consequences to Sin
So, what if you're not sure if you're a follower of Jesus or if you know you don't believe all these claims of "good news"? Might it be that the infertility is God's getting at you for your lack of faith? God has told us how he deals with sinners, and this isn't it. As a matter of fact, the Bible is filled with righteous people crying out to God as to why he lets the wicked prosper. You've seen that guy you know is cheating on his wife pushing the stroller down the sidewalk. Prostitutes and slumlords and child molesters all become pregnant or have children. That isn't a sign of God's approval of their lives, and your infertility isn't a sign of God's disfavor.

As a matter of fact, as we've seen earlier, if you don't know Christ, God is not disciplining you at all (Heb. 12:8), though he is sovereign over everything that happens in your life. He is calling you to be found in Christ, and the curse that awaits you comes at judgment, not now. For now there's a temporary suspension of doom, and God is doing good to you, as you can see by the air you're breathing and the blood pushing through your veins (Acts 14: 16-17). As Jesus tells his disciples, the horrible circumstances that happen to people in this life aren't a one-to-one 'retaliation for sin (Luke 13:1-4). But Jesus does tell us that if we don't repent, these things-be it infertility or towers falling on us-will be the least of our problems.

Jesus rebukes his disciples' assumptions that a man born blind is being particularly punished, either for his sin or for that of his parents (John 9:1-3). Jesus recognizes, though, that blindness is not good; it is part of a universe in which God's reign is not yet real¬ized. It's right to be sad about infertility. That's why God so often in Scripture hears the prayers of barren women. (page 90)

Source: Adopted for Life (The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches)by Russell D. Moore, Crossway Books

Friday, December 4, 2009

Statistics of Suffering

The following are statistics of suffering from the new book, “The Poor Will Be Glad” by Peter Greer and Phil Smith:

1.Hunger: Approximately 850 million people go to bed hungry every night and search for creative ways to ignore their discomfort. [page 25]

2.Child Mortality: Worldwide, eleven million children die every year before reaching their fifth birthday. That translates to thirty thousand children who die each day from hunger and preventable disease ― one child every three seconds. [page 25]

3.Drinking Water: Twenty percent of the world has no access to clean water. Millions more walk long distances to carry every drop of water to their homes. (Geography IQ, “Infant Mortality Rate,” (August 19, 2008). [page 25]

4.Diarrhea: In the developing world, diarrhea wracks the thin bodies of tens of millions of children who have no access to diapers or plumbing ― and it kills between 1.6 and 2.5 million children every year. (University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, “Novel Compound May Treat Acute Diarrhea,” Science Daily, June 21, 2008, (August 19, 2008). [page 25]

5.Health Care: More than half of all Africans do not have access to modern health facilities. The result is ten million annual deaths from the four most common preventable diseases: diarrhea, acute respiratory illness, malaria, and measles. In many cases, one simple shot could save a life. (Mark Kinver, “Water Policy ‘Fails World’s Poor,’” BBC News on the Web, March 9, 2006, (August 19, 2008). [page 26]

6.Women’s Rights: An Afghan man was told that his sick daughter’s life could be saved if he took her across a dangerous mountain pass to medical care in a city two hours away. “No, I don’t want to do that,” he responded. “Girls are free, but donkeys cost money.” (Kirk Magelby, “MicroFranchises as a Solution to Global Poverty,” December 2005, (August 19, 2008). [page 27]

7.Employment: In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, only 10 percent of the entire population is formally employed. There simply are no formal employment options, no “Help Wanted” signs, and no employers who are legally mandated to provide a minimum wage and other rights. [page 27]

8.Poverty: As of July 2007, there were approximately 6.6 billion people living on earth. Approximately four billion live on less than $4 per day, nearly all of whom live in developing countries. Their incomes are distributed in the following way:

a. One billion live on less than $1 per day.
b. Two billion live on $1 to $2 per day.
c. One billion live on $2 to $4 per day.

For a more complete analysis of the breakdown of poverty and the difference between the countries moving out of poverty and those stuck in a poverty trap, we recommend The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It by Paul Collier (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). [page 29]

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Church Is Not Reaching Everyone -- Yet

Missions leaders divide the world into three groups to help us better understand what is taking place:

World C – 33% (Christianized nations)
It is surprising to learn that at least 78% of all Christian missionaries work in countries that are already Christianized, such as Zimbabwe, Russia, France, Brazil and the US. At the turn of the millennium, over $13 billion was being spent each year to reach people in these nations. Over 90% of all Christian literature, radio and TV was directed to reach people in World C. Everyone has not responded to receive Christ, but the gospel is readily available in these nations.

World B – 39% (some gospel presence, some Christians)
About 18% of all missionaries work in these partly reached countries. Records show that 9% of Christian literature and 4% of Christian radio/TV end up here. Some of these nations are even sending nations (such as India and South Korea).

World A – 28% (The unevangelized world: those who do not have Christ, Christianity or the gospel available to them.)
This group receives less than one-tenth of one percent of all the Christian literature, radio and TV ministry in the world. Only 3% of the world’s missionaries work here. [World Christian Database, (“Missionaries Sent,” accessed October 29, 2008). Barrett and Johnson, World Christian Trends.]

No wonder so many people are still unreached! Who decides how these resources get used, anyway?

The idea isn’t to work less in World B or World C, but to do much more new work in World A. [Pages 63, 64]

Source: Sylvia Foth, Daddy Are We There Yet? (A global check-in on the world of mission and kids), Kidzana Ministries, Mukilteo, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Is There Really More to be Done?

One of the biggest concerns for mission leaders is that we start to think the job is finished. We need to celebrate when many come to Christ. The angels in heaven rejoice when just one sinner comes to repentance. But we must inform ourselves about the realities, and guard against the feeling that there is no more work to do:

The truth is, 4.4 billion people on our planet do not know Jesus.

The truth is, currently, at least 1.87 billion people live in areas with no gospel presence at all (World A).

The truth is, in spite of major growth efforts, the percentage of people who call themselves Christian around the world has stayed essentially the same since the beginning of the 1900s (about 34%). We haven’t grown percentage-wise for the past 100 years. [Barrett and Johnson, World Christian Trends, 40; Market, “Global Christianity.”]
The truth is that 6500 people groups still do not have a Christian witness at all.

The truth is…we are not there yet. [Page 64]

Sylvia Foth, Daddy Are We There Yet? (A global check-in on the world of mission and kids), Kidzana Ministries, Mukilteo, 2009