Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pray for Young People to Obey the Great Commission

Pray for young people who will have a zeal to obey the Great Commission and take the gospel and compassionate care to the needy of the world, not just to look for opportunities in what they feel are their gifts and desires are best used, but to go to the 160 million street children of the world whether they like children and children's ministries or not; to minister to the rich or the poor whether they feel comfortable with these classes of people or not; to develop ministries of evangelism, discipleship, and development with the millions of prostitutes, prisoners, and others whether they feel comfortable with them or not; or to take the gospel to the Catholics, the Buddhists, and the Muslims whether they have a special love for them or not.

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16).

Friday, February 24, 2012

Reflecting God's Image: What It Means to Truly Value Others

by Stephanie O. Hubach

I saw the rage in his eyes and heard myself thinking, No...o...o...o...! but it was too late. Five-year-old Freddy, protecting his younger brother, unleashed his fury on two taunting girls in the shallow end of the pool. Honestly, I think he meant to create the community pool version of a tidal wave. But his force behind the water turned into a full-fledged slap across their faces.

Freddy's brother, Timmy, who has Down syndrome, had been standing poolside, wonderfully excited about the prospect of going swimming. At age 3, he sometimes expressed emotional overload by flapping his arms, opening his mouth and blinking his eyes repeatedly. However, this time two little girls decided that Timmy's behavior was entertaining and began to laugh, point at and imitate him. Apparently, it was more than Freddy's justice-oriented personality could handle. He drew back his arm and swiftly administered the due penalty.

Within seconds, Freddy received his own share of compassionate justice for hitting two young ladies. Struggling with his first exposure to public, intentional disrespect toward Timmy, Freddy experienced a very teachable moment. While his response to the mocking girls was inappropriate, Freddy had rightly recognized disrespect when he saw it.

An indelible image

What do you first envision when you think of respect? High regard for those in authority? Honor for the elderly? Maybe esteem for a person's noteworthy accomplishments or for his ability to persevere? The Bible indeed teaches that individuals in positions of authority, those who have seen many days and people who live their lives in an admirable fashion are worthy of our respect. But there is something much deeper and inherently more central to the concept of respect: the glory of God imprinted into the essence of man. In encountering any person, we ought to marvel at all of the things that are good and admirable and beautiful about them (Philippians 4:8).

Let's be honest. How many of us respond to our closest family and friends this way? When was the last time you looked at your children and stood in awe of the glory of God within them? How about your spouse?

What's your view of strangers who have special needs? When you are in a hurry, and a cashier with obvious developmental disabilities slowly attempts to count your change, do you first and foremost see the glory of God? Or if you are at a restaurant and a man with cerebral palsy drools on his shirt at the table next to you, is your first realization one of wonder and honor?

It takes conscious effort to appreciate the most fundamental blessing of creation―that we are all created in the image of God―and to gaze speechlessly at His goodness, truth and beauty in others. We need to search for His glory in each individual until we find it, and then we need to celebrate it!

Different standard

Unfortunately, our culture often measures personal value as a function of productivity. The degree to which we are able to contribute to society is the degree to which we are valued. In God's economy, however, human value is defined by the Creator himself through the imprint of His image in mankind. Others take notice, not merely when we say this is true, but when we live as though it is true.
When we look for the "good and admirable and beautiful," we focus on the positive, and we will impart encouragement to others in the process. Learning to see God's image helps us to keep our perspective by focusing on the potential in every per¬son, rather than on limitations. It also emphasizes what matters most-a person's dignity-and not his abilities or disabilities.

The individual who provides support for a person with special needs is upholding the sanctity of human life―and so are the parents who promote the image of God in their "typical" children by lovingly raising them. We honor the image of God when we serve a neighbor who has AIDS, when we meet the needs of our spouse who has cancer, or when we care for a family member with dementia. The concept of the sanctity of human life is immense and broad, and it motivates us to respectfully engage others in God's name in whatever we do. [Page 20,21]

Used by permission of P&R Publishing, Same Lake, Different Boat: Coming Alongside People Touched by Disability, Stephanie O. Hubach (Phillipsburg, NJ.: 2006), "On Respect: Common Grace, Special Needs," 43-52, prpbooks.com.
focusonthefamily.com January 2009 (page 20-21)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Whisper Test

By Mary Ann Bird

I grew up knowing I was different, and I hated it. I was born with a cleft palate, and when I started school my classmates made it clear to me how I must look to others; a little girl with a misshapen lip, crooked nose, lopsided teeth and garbled speech.

When schoolmates would ask, “What happened to your lip?”I’d tell them I’d fallen and cut it on a piece of glass. Somehow it seemed more acceptable to have suffered an accident than to have been born different. I was convinced that no one outside my family could love me. Then I entered Mrs. Leonard’s second-grade class.

Mrs. Leonard was round and pretty and fragrant, with shining brown hair and warm, dark, smiling eyes. Everyone adored her. But no one came to love her more than I did. And for a special reason.

The time came for the annual hearing tests given at our school. I could barely hear out of one ear and was not about to reveal something else that would single me out as different. So I cheated.

The “whisper test” required each child to go to the classroom door, turn sideways, close one ear with a finger, while the teacher whispered something from her desk, which the child repeated. Then the same for the other ear. Nobody checked how tightly the untested ear was covered so I merely pretended to block mine.

As usual, I was last. But all through the testing I wondered what Mrs. Leonard might say to me. I knew from previous years that the teacher whispered things like “The sky is blue” or “Do you have new shoes?”

My time came. I turned my bad ear toward her, plugging up the other just enough to be able to hear. I waited, and then came the words that God had surely put into her mouth, seven words that changed my life forever.

Mrs. Leonard, the teacher I adored, said softy, “I wish you were my little girl.”

[Condensed from Guideposts Magazine, January, 1985, p. 115]

Friday, February 17, 2012

When Helping Hurts

by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert
(p. 35-38)

What Would Jesus Do?

In his book The Last Days: A Son’s Story of Sin and Segregation at the Dawn of the New South, Charles Marsh describes growing up in Laurel, Mississippi, during the 1960s. Racial tensions were high as the federal government sought to end segregation. Civil rights workers, many of whom came from the North, poured into the region, seeking to end centuries of discrimination against the African American. Charles’s father was the well known pastor of First Baptist Church in Laurel and a pillar of the community. Beloved for his outstanding preaching and godly living, Reverend March was to his parishioners the model Christian.
Also living in Laurel, Mississippi, was Sam Bowers, the imperial Wizard of the White Nights of the Ku Klux Klan of Mississippi, who terrorized African Americans through the region. Bowers was suspected of plotting at least nine murders of African Americans and civil rights workers, seventy-five bombings of African American churches, and numerous beatings and physical assaults.
How did Reverend Marsh, the modal Christian, respond to this situation? Charles explains:

There is no doubt my father loathed the Klan when he thought about them at all. In his heart of hearts, he considered slavery a sin, racisms like Germany’s or South Africa’s an offense to the faith, and he taught me as much in occasional pronouncements on Southern history over homework assignments. “There is no justification for what we do to the Negro. It was an evil thing and we were wrong.” “Nevertheless, the work of the Lord lay elsewhere. “Be faithful in church attendance, for your presence can, if nothing else, show that you are on God’s side when the doors of the Church are opened,” he advised in the church bulletin. Of course, packing the pews is one of any minister’s fantasies—there’s always the wish to grow, grow, grow. But the daily installments of Mississippi burning, the crushing poverty of the town’s Negro inhabitance, the rituals of white supremacy, the smell of terror pervading the streets like Masonite’s stench, did not figure into his sermon or our dinner table conversations or in the talk of the church. These were, to a good Baptist preacher like him, finally matters of politics, having little or nothing to do with the spiritual geography of a pilgrim’s journey to paradise. Unwanted annoyances? Yes. Sad evidences of our human feelings? Certainly. But all of these would be rectified in some eschatological future—“when we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be.”

Reverend Marsh had reduced Christianity to a personal piety that was devoid of social concern emanating from a kingdom perspective. He believed Christianity consisted in keeping one’s soul pure by avoiding alcohol, drugs, and sexual impurity, and by helping others to keep their souls pure too. There was little “new” of the kingdom for Reverend Marsh, apart from the saving of souls. For Reverend Marsh, James 1:27 said: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: . . . to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Somehow, he overlooked the phrase that pure and faultless religion included look[ing] after orphans and widows in their distress.”

While Reverend Marsh preached personal piety and the hope of heaven, African Americans were being lynched in Mississippi through the plotting of Sam Bowers, Less dramatic but even more pervasive was the entire social, political, and economic system designed to keep African Americans in their place. What would King Jesus do in this situation? Would He simply evangelize the African Americans, saying, “I have heard your cries for help, but your plight is of no concern to Me. Believe in Me, and I will transport your soul to heaven someday. In the meantime, abstain from alcohol, drugs, and sexual impurity”? Is this how Jesus responded to the blind beggar who pleaded for mercy?

Reverend Marsh did play a role in the civil rights movement, but it was not to “seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, [or] plead the case of the widow” (Isaiah 1:17). Instead, he focused his attention and energies on the lack of personal piety and unbelief of some of the civil rights workers. This culminated in his writing a famous sermon, :The Sorrow of Selma,” in which he lambasted the civil rights workers, calling them “unbathed beatniks,” “immoral kooks,” and “sign-carrying degenerates” who were hypocrites for not believing in God.”

In one sense, Reverend Marsh was right. Many of the civil rights protestors longed for the peace, justice, and righteousness of the kingdom, but they did not want to bend the knee to the King Himself, which is a prerequisite for enjoying the full benefits of the kingdom. In contrast, Reverend Marsh embraced King Jesus, but he did not understand the fullness of Christ’s kingdom and its implications for the injustice in his community. Both Reverend Marsh and the civil rights workers were wrong, but in different ways. Reverend Marsh sought the King without the kingdom. The civil rights workers sought the kingdom without the King. The church needs a Christ centered, fully orbed, kingdom perspective to correctly answer the question: “What would Jesus do?”

Monday, February 13, 2012

the Whole Truth!

by Doug Nichols

A Chinese pastor friend of mine was in India speaking at a pastors’ conference. A friend took him to a barber shop for a haircut. A normal haircut consisted of a haircut, shave, and sometimes even a head and neck massage.

The barber, who was a heavy set and rough looking Muslim, gave the haircut and then proceeded to give the shave. As he put the razor on the neck of my Chinese friend, he asked, “Where are you from?”

Now this was the year 2005. The USA had invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. Muslims around the world hated Americans. So, when the Muslim barber asked my Chinese friend where he was from, he was afraid to say, “The USA” so instead he replied, “I am Chinese!”

The barber responded, “Oh, wonderful, we love the Chinese. Some of my Muslim friends are Chinese!”

My friend later said that even though this was funny, he felt ashamed that he was afraid to tell the whole truth.

Many times, we do not give the whole truth in a situation for fear of our reputation, personal safety, convenience, or comfort.

What would you do in a situation like this?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bottle Up Blindness (Am Example of Trusting God to Use You Personally!)

In 2001, Doug Nichols was the speaker in the Old Tab in our evening service. As you know, he always challenges us with huge projects. He told the story of a 26 year old minister who was burdened for the many orphans roaming the streets of New York city. It was a time when thousands of immigrants were coming to America and because of the many hardships they faced, both enroute to and in trying to get settled in a new country, many parents died and the streets of New York City were filled with orphans. No one had the time or money to look after them. Horrified by their plight, Charles Brace began the foster home plan. When he ran out of homes, he organized a unique solution, the Orphan Train. The idea was simple: carefully put hundreds of orphans on a train heading west. As the train passed through towns along the way, Christian committees brought approved Christian families to the train depot to claim a new son or daughter from the Orphan Train.

By the time the last Orphan Train steamed west in 1929, thousands of children had found new homes and new lives. Of course, we know that not all the homes would have been the best.

Doug Nichols then challenged us to adopt 25,000 or even 50,000 orphans. As we closed in prayer, I felt the Lord clearly saying to me, “You cannot adopt 25,000 orphans, but you could help that many children from going blind.” Actually this had been on my mind for several years already. Over and over this thought went through my mind, “For lack of 60 cents a child is going blind. What if one of our nine precious grandchildren had gone blind for lack of 60 cents?”

No surgery can restore the child’s sight when blindness occurs from a lack of Vitamin A. Christian Blind Mission (the world’s leading organization to prevent and cure blindness) can purchase, ship to other countries and dispense three capsules of Vitamin A for only 60 cents. It will be stored in the child’s liver and prevent blindness for a year. Children between the ages of two and six are in special need of this vitamin.

Henry and I prayed and thought of every creative way we could to make this thing work. We envisioned hundreds of boys and girls, and even adults, collecting pennies, dimes and quarters. Finally we thought of small prescription bottles from the drug store that would hold dimes or quarters and we would organize a project much like the Christmas Shoe Boxes. Small bottles would be made available and one person in each church or school or any organization would be responsible to set up the project in their particular setting, see that the bottles were collected at a certain time and one cheque sent to the Mission.

We presented our idea to the Mission and they were thankful for any help. We persuaded them that we needed a short video – about seven or eight minutes long - to present the need. It took quite some time before they produced a video - just for us and our project – which we called Bottle-up-Blindness. We believe the video challenges every age group and by now our vision is much more than just having children involved. We believe every family member can be a part of this project. Although the little bottles we provide hold dimes and quarters, any small containers can be used to collect pennies, nickels - or even loonies and toonies.

The reason we chose these two prescription bottles is so that children have a reachable goal within a reasonable time period. Adults may want to collect all year, but for children we feel it's best to have an 8 – 10 week period. The challenge is: collect 30 dimes and you can prevent blindness in five children; collect 24 quarters and you prevent blindness in 10 children. Even 60 pennies helps one child.

-- Henry & Eva Goertzen in Three Hills, Alberta, Canada

Note from Doug Nichols: Perhaps God would use you to do a similar project; 60¢ to provide a meal and the Gospel to a street child in Manila or orphan in Africa. Imagine, $6 to provide the Gospel and feed 10 needy children and $60 for 100! www.actioncic.org; www.actioninternational.org

Monday, February 6, 2012

Respectable Sins -- Really?

by Doug Nichols

My wife Margaret and I have been convicted in reading Jerry Bridges’ book, “Respectable Sins (Confronting the Sins We Tolerate)” published by NavPress.

The first six chapters deal with sin in general with titles such as: “Ordinary Saints”, “The Disappearance of Sin”, “The Malignancy of Sin”, “The Remedy of Sin”, “The Power of the Holy Spirit”, and “Directions for Dealing with Sins”.

In the next fourteen chapters, Bridges lists “respectable sins” and how to deal with them. Sins such as Ungodliness, Anxiety and Frustration, Discontentment, Un-thankfulness, Pride, Selfishness, Lack of Self-control, Impatience and Irritability, Anger, The Weeds of Anger, Judgmentalism, Envy, Jealousy and Related Sins, Sins of the Tongue, and Worldliness.

I am encouraged by what Bridges writes about the purpose of his book. He writes, “While seeking to address these “respectable sins”, however, I want this to be a book of hope. We are never to wallow hopelessly in our sins. Rather, we are to believe the gospel through which God has dealt with both the guilt of our sins and His dominion over us.

The gospel, though, is only for sinners, for those who recognize their need of it. Many Christians think of the gospel as only for unbelievers. Once we trust in Christ, some of the thinking goes; we no longer need the gospel. But, as I seek to bring out in this book, the gospel is a vital gift from God not only for our salvation but also to enable us to deal with the ongoing activity of sin in our lives. So we still need the gospel every day.”

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

How would your Christian friends and acquaintances describe you?

by Doug Nichols

My wife and I have enjoyed reading one of the best biographies we have ever read. It is an old book that was first published in 1900 entitled, Pastor Hsi by Mrs. Howard Taylor. Near the end of the book, she describes a pastor of a Christian refuge ministry to opium addicts. The Refuge later became a church with over 200 men who had trusted Christ, as well as their wives and families.

This is how Mrs. Taylor described Pastor Sung as she and her husband were at a meeting at the Refuge:

Here from the doorway of the women's room we can see to better advantage, and it is not quite so hot as in the kitchen. What a bright,interesting scene it is. Such greetings, laughter, friendly conversation; such busy preparations for the meal! Mats are spread under the awning, upon which, grouped around little tables, the older men are seated; and the rest, supplied with basins and chopsticks like ourselves, sit comfortably on the ground, or perch on the steps of the side houses.

And there, in the midst of them all, under the spreading vine, is dear old Pastor Sung, manager of the Refuge, and spiritual father of almost everyone in this large company.

What a picture he makes, surrounded as with a halo by their loving reverence, seated on that low wooden bench, with the flowers behind him and the cool green leaves overhead, his face all aglow as he looks from one to another of his large, happy family. Dear old man; small, spare, and stooping, with a little whitey-brown queue, and a strongly marked, benevolent face: dear old wonderful man, who, without learning or special gifts, simply by the power of the Holy Spirit in his loving heart, has drawn all these to Jesus―he is worth coming to China to see.

This is one of the most moving descriptions of a godly man that we have ever read. I can hardly wait to get to heaven to meet Pastor Sung and Pastor and Mrs. Hsi.

Would someone be able to write a similar description of you? I think of Matthew 5:16, Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.