Day 31: The Circle

Missions March couldn’t be complete without a final stop: a visit to the circle.

What is “the circle”?  The circle is the people you have the most contact with, know the best, and influence the most.

People’s lives are changed by strangers everyday.  The family of a child in Africa saved by a heart surgery donated by Christians in America through Samaritan’s Purse is not likely to forget the ministry of strangers.  The ministry of strangers has changed lives, saved lives, and, best of all, brought people to eternal life in Christ.

But more often, lives are changed by the ministry of those we most know.

Your family, your friends, your coworkers, your neighbors, the people in your small group Bible study, your canasta club, your hunting buddies, your Tupperware party ‘girl friends’ . . these are the people God has given in your circle.

If you think of a circle drawn around your life, the people you are closest to are inside that circle, and they are not there by accident.  They have been providentially placed there by God, and they are your responsibility to reach.

That’s heavy.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the thought of being responsible for those in my circle who are, very often the hardest people to reach.  It is easier for me to go on a mission trip or talk to a stranger on an airplane about Christ than it is for me to talk to some of my friends about Him.

Why is this?  Probably because there’s more danger involved.  If somebody sitting on the plane next to me waves his hand at me in disgust when I share my testimony with him, not much is lost except maybe my comfort for the rest of the plane ride.  But if one of my closest friends, or a family member I have to see every holiday thereafter, despises me, or even just makes fun of me, I feel as though I can’t face it.

Satan knows about the circle.  And he will attack in any way he can to keep your light from shining consistently and brightly for the people you are most likely to have the most influence over.

And he will fight dirty.

He will try to get you to be so fearful, so distracted, so frightful, so forgetful, so reluctant, so busy, or so embarrassed that you never witness at all, or only weakly witness at best.  He will try to persuade you that you would be a fool to reach out to the people in your life who you have the most influence over.

We have a choice.  We can listen to Satan, and lose out on witnessing to those we have the most time and relationship to do so with, or we can listen to God, and start living a life of Christ everywhere–not just in church, not just on the mission field in a foreign land, but right here, right now.

You are not limited in your witnessing to non-Christians in your circle.  You can encourage, council, and, even (the hardest) confront believers in your life through God’s help.

The idea of “confronting” is not pleasant, but it is vital.  If you and I know that we have a brother or sister living in sin, and we say nothing about it–how can we really love them?  God never tolerates our sin.  He never allows a believer to stay there.  Conviction is something only God can do; but you can confront a friend and pray for God’s conviction in their life.

Why do that?  Why not just hope God does it without your help?  You could rescue them from looming disaster and grave consequences (Read Jude).  But can’t God forgive them without your help?  Yes.  But would you really let a friend drive drunk because you knew his father would forgive them?  That’s hardly the point, is it?  The point is, you friend may get in a serious accident and kill himself or others or both.  In the same way, we can’t let family (and believers are our true family) live in the peril of habitual sin without praying for them, warning them, and reaching out to help them.

Reaching out to believers in our circle isn’t second to reaching to unbelievers.  If anything, we should flip the priority.  When we in dear love encourage, council, and confront believers, we help them grow in the wisdom of Christ.  A growing believer is a phobia to Satan.  Imagine the unity in the church if we only reached out to believers!  If we took care of each others needs like family would, worked together to pay hospital bills, shared meals, had picnics and cook-outs together all the time, prayed for each other with devotion, traveled together, searched for strengths to encourage and weaknesses to strengthen, protected each others’ vulnerabilities, housed visiting believers so they wouldn’t go to hotels, called on each other in times of crisis, etc.  We would have the attention of the world.  (Note: There are certainly, certainly Christians who already do this.  But the rest of us need to get serious about living like belong together.)

Imagine what would happen if all the Christian parents in America only witnessed to their children–only their children, no one else.  If they spent their free time praying for their children, reading God’s Word to their children, sharing their faith, engaging in missions together, learning in church together, playing together, working together, etc.  If the Christian parents in America did only this and no more, we would have revival in twenty years.

I am not saying that every child would choose to be a Christian.  As Ravi Zacharias says, Christianity is not a religion where you can be born into it; you must choose it for yourself.  It is a personal and dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ.  Jesus atones for sins for individuals, not for families.

Yet, many children would become believers, and not only would they become believers but–Hallelujah!–they would become strong, passionate, zealous believers, a group that has been a radical minority in America for years.

But there’s more.  What if Christians just loved their families?  Forget friends, coworkers, canasta club, etc.  Just family.  And not all family, but just immediate family.  What would happen?  We would draw our friends, and even strangers, like iron to a magnet.

If we truly engaged with our children, loved our spouses with passionate and devoted romance, treated our parents with respect from a core attitude of honor towards them, helped our siblings as though they were our best friends . . the world would be asking us, What is different about you?  Why do you treat your family like that?  How did you get that kind of love?

A critical problem with American Christians is that we do not spend time with God every day in His Word–I’m not talking about reading a verse in your Inbox or a page of your devotional calendar or the newest Christian bestseller–but the Word of God.  Our lack of care for God’s Word will be our nation’s downfall if we do not repent from this course.

If we spent time in God’s Word, we would see how important it is to God that we reach our family and our neighbors and everyone God gives us the chance to reach.  We would know that we are not to be casual or passive about our family or friends or world, but we are to fight for them.  And it starts with our family: physical and spiritual.

Would you want to listen to someone who always grips about their kids talk about the fatherly love of God to you?

Would you want to listen to someone always full of demeaning stories about their spouse talk about the great romance of God pursuing us?

Would you want to listen to someone always belittling their parents and avoiding visits with them talk about the respect they have for God?

Would you?  Neither would I.

THEN WHY DO WE DO WE TREAT OUR FAMILIES LIKE THIS?  WHY!?!?!?!?

We have got to wake up!  We have got to get in God’s Word and start fighting for our family (spiritual and physical), our friends, our neighbors, our coworkers, and everyone else in our circle.  We will never be able to reach the world with a consistent message until they see us treating our family, friends, coworkers, boss, and clients the way God commands us to treat them.  This is not an option.  And if we keep getting it wrong, we may find ourselves one day in the center of an empty circle, bringing no one with us to Heaven’s Gates.

. . each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. (1 Corinthians 3:10b-15, NIV)

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Note: I’ve heard The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson is very good.  His idea of making a circle prompted my thinking, though I only heard about it second-hand through my mom, who has read the book.  🙂

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The Greatest Event in History!

Why Easter? Read on!

Unshakable Hope

What would your answer be if you were asked to name thegreatestevent in the history of the world?

I suspect that your answer would depend on your overall worldview. A Christian, who fully understands the Gospel message, would say that the resurrection of Christ was the greatest event in history. But I don’t think any non-Christians would agree with that answer. Regardless of what their religious or ideological beliefs might be, all non-Christians have one thing in common; they don’t believe in the resurrection of Christ.

Lee Strobel has been a follower of Christ and a well-known Christian apologist for over 30 years. Before becoming a Christian, Lee was an award-winning investigative journalist and the legal editor for the ChicagoTribune. He was also a self-professed “drunk” and an “angry atheist.”  His wife, Leslie, was agnostic when they married, but later became a Christian. Leslie’s…

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Published in: on March 31, 2013 at 9:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The jeweled Path

This past week has been like all weeks since my new life in Christ.  When I look back on the Path I’ve walked, the debris of my sin litters what was, only 7 days before, a clean street.

Here and there, I see the glimmers of a jewel, sometimes plainly seen on the path, sometimes hidden almost entirely underneath my sin.  I see the moments where God got ahold of my heart, where I prayed out of love, where I sought His heart, where I did something that imitated my Savior and my God.  But when I look at my basket of righteousness to see what I have collected from those moments, I see only the wicker at the bottom.

Empty.

Empty!

On the path behind, I see not only the gemstones I missed, but even more so the trash I left behind.  I think about how, in honesty, I could not reconcile and set everything right I trashed even this past seven days, much less for the some 8,000 days I have been an influencer in the world, a journeyer responsible for what I carry and what I leave behind.

This week, as I look back over the street, I see the very tip of a large gemstone just visible on the path I walked, but–before my heart can soar in this moment of discovering the gem or faint in grief that I didn’t spend time uncovering it–I see the mounds of trash piled high beside that stone, desecrating the goodness God was showing me.

It’s especially wounding to realize that God was working with me on something, that I saw it, that I even began to experience in it . . and then that other trash of my life spilled over and I sinned so greatly I obscured even the sweetest moment of the week.

Lately, I have had an obsession with the year 30.  I will be 30 August 28, 2013.  I dream that, when I turn 30, I will hold my life all together, that there will be only a few sprinkles of trash here and there, and that the path will be paved with breathtaking gemstones, one after the other, turned over by God as He reveals His work to my closely following heart.

I’ve thought, I’ve hoped I will begin following Jesus nearly perfectly.  Jesus started His public ministry at 30, and–though I know the first 29 years of my life do not mirror Jesus’ whatsoever save for the dazzling intervention of His grace–I hope that the rest of the years of my life will be a symphony of imitating my Redeemer, without His help.  I want to show Him that I love Him, that I can live out what He’s taught me  That I, in some tiny way, understand what He’s done for me.

But do I really believe this will happen?  Do I think that, in a few short months, simply because I hear the song of another birthday, my life will be filled with holiness?

That when I look back as an old woman (should I by God’s grace live so long!) I will see from the year 30 onward, the Path behind me jeweled and radiant with gemstones God has overturned for my pure heart to see, gemstones I have no longer missed because I am no longer too busy throwing the trash of my chaos, my selfishness, and my foolishness down the glory street, gemstones I finally placed in my basket to bring to Him at the moment my soul meets eternity?

Do I really think I will gather sapphires of peace, mali garnets of integrity, almandine garnets of charity, amazonites of purpose, moonstones of reflection, ambers of passion, amethysts of hope, morganites of gentleness, ammolites of creativity, andalusites of generosity, aventurines of adventure, beryls of a noble heart, peridots of faith, carnelians of trust, rhodolite garnets of beauty, charorites of compassion, rubies of wisdom, chrysoprases of worship, citrines of holiness, seraphinites of purity, danburites of determination, smoky quartz of persistence, diamonds of truth, spessarite garnets of fear of the Lord, emeralds of thoughtfulness, fire agates of resolution, sphalerites of zeal, emeralds of patience, spodumenes of exalting Christ, star diopsides of mystery, gaspeites of wonder, ametrines of mercy, agate geodes of victory, star garnets of announcing the Kingdom of Christ, star diopsides of proclaiming Christ as the only resolution for sin, goshenites of following Him, star sunshines of devotion, hackmanites of surrender, tanzanites of battling on God’s side, moss opals of growth, obsidians of strength, axinites of warmth, cassiterites of understanding, hiddenites of listening to the whispers of God, imperial topazes of His atonement for me, topazes of the war against sin, jaspers of the hidden plan of God, tiger’s eyes of refusing defeat, kunzites of the romance of God for His people, turquoises of astonishment for His grace, kyanites of a clear conscience, lapis lazulis of a servant’s heart, zircons of strength for the battles ahead, tourmalines of endurance, sunstones of redemption, pyrope garnets of forgiveness, and rubellite tourmalines of His love . . simply because I have gotten a year older?

Even now, I know it won’t be so.  I already imagine the litter of my sin in the future.  Even the most precious moments of God in my life are piled over high with the smelly filth of unimaginable sins I have committed.

How do I go on?  How do I keep hoping I will live a perfect life?  How do I keep from missing the gemstones in my path like a child staring at her shoes during an Easter egg hunt?  How do I have any assurance I will live a holy life from this day forward?  How do I rely on myself when, to date, the basket of my self-righteousness is empty?  I am happy simply to look back and see gems that have not been totally buried in my trash; I never once have been able to touch one with my fingertips and place it in my basket.  And so my basket is hauntingly empty; the path of holiness is hauntingly fearful; I wonder how I can, with any sort of integrity, keep going down the path of Christianity and not resign in shame?

And then, suddenly, instantly, a hand slips into mind.  I recognize the scar in the middle of the palm; I look up and see a head that has borne the crown of thorns I deserve as my reward for how I have journeyed on this path.

My eyes fill with tears, because I look on His majesty and see I have nothing to give Him.  I am like a servant walking in a kingdom to find that it is the king’s birthday and I have no present.  This is far more than a birthday; this is Resurrection Day–and what do I have to give Him?

I look down at my empty basket and the shame of how I’ve walked the Path brings me to my knees.  I cover my face in my hands and hope He does not see me, that He walks on by to receive jewels from others who have earned them for Him.

He still holds my hand, and He moves my hand in His to reach for something I cannot see with my head bent down.  He withdraws His hand from my trembling one, and my hand rests on the hard warmth of the inside of a basket filled with jewels, loaded down so that not another can fit.

I raise my hand, stand in surprise, look in the basket held out before me.  Inside is everything I have ever tried to give Jesus; everything jewel God has ever shown me on the path that I either missed or failed to pick up; and ones I have never seen or imagined even existed that await on my future path–I see clearly that I will fail to pick up them, too.

The jewels of righteousness are too beautiful for my unholy eyes, and I jerk my gaze away.  I try to pull my hand from His basket, but He grasps my wrist and lays my hand back over the gemstones.

“I cannot . .” I weep.  “I cannot take your gemstones.  You’ve worked so hard for them.  It’s not fair!  I’m the one who should be giving to you!”

I should have collected jewels to give to Him! He is the one who carried me from the path of destruction!  I owe Him everything!  should be the one bringing the gifts!

He is the One who undug my grave while nails were in His palms.  He is the One who kissed my dead heart to life while He was kissed with my betrayal of HimHe is the One who lifted me out of the grave while the consequences of my actions shredded His skin. He is the One who crowned my head with life while He wore the crown of my curse.  He is the one who carried me on His back while I lifted a cross to His.

I was His cross.

As He tasted the vinegar of my death, He cupped His hands full of the Living Water to quench my thirst.  As He took His last breath, He breathed into me my first breath.  And when He woke from the tomb, it was me who He carried out with Him.

How can I possibly take His jewels?

I start to refuse.  I start to flee, but He holds my hand once more.  I hear a tearing, like a Great Curtain ripping a path from earth to Heaven, and I see in front of the path a still stone cave.

The world is utterly quiet.  I look at the stone beside the mouth of the cave.  It would have been impossible for me to move; but Someone has already moved it.  I know what this place is; I wonder if it is really okay to go inside.

But He leads me in.  I look around in what would have been the darkness of the place, but He is standing beside me.

I see the inside is not the small space of a tomb, but the infinite trove of a sea of jewels.  As far as I can look, I can see gemstones flooding the cavern.  My eyes would go blind from looking at them, were it not that He shields me with His hand.  I cannot in my falleness withstand seeing the infinite holiness of this vault.  He leads me out and I stumble in a daze.

Once again, He lays my hand on His basket.  I look again, and I see the gemstones of everything I have ever wanted to give Him, all the jewels I have seen along the way, and many more I missed seeing altogether, and even more that have not yet been unturned on the Path ahead.

And now I see.

My life is fulfilled in Christ.

It is He who holds everything together.

If you know Him, you do not go through life with an empty basket, but a full one.

My life is not to be spent trying to collect gemstones.

He has already picked them up for me.

My life is to be spent marveling Him, holding His jewels in my basket, sharing His jewels with the jewel-less world.

I come to the Jesus of Easter, and I throw my empty basket of self-righteousness aside.  It tumbles away somewhere in the wastelands adjacent to the Path.  I hold out my hands and Jesus gives me a gemstone to hold.

And then we keep walking.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 2:21, NIV)

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Gemstone ideas and pictures found at http://www.gemselect.com/other-info/gemstone-list.php

Day 30: Tell Your Story

“God has written a story on the human heart.”

–Epic, John Eldridge

Have you ever asked a couple to share how they met?  Every story is one-of-a-kind.

Stories might have something in common on a surface level, but they are very different when you go deeper.  In the same way, God writes love stories in each of our lives that are for each of us.  No one else in the world shares the same love story with God as you do.

If you are a believer, you have accepted God’s pen to write His love story in your life.  And we all know a book is meant to be shared.  😉  If you refuse to share your testimony, you are not just refusing to share your testimony.  You are refusing to share God’s story.  No one else in the world knows God’s love story for your life like you do.  He has written it on your soul; you are the only mortal who can see it.

If you keep quiet, you are depriving the world of your love story.  Your love story is not merely ‘recommended reading’ for the world; it is urged and you are expected to share.  God could use the love story He wrote on your life to draw another person to start their love story with Him.  In fact, by the grace of God, your love story could be a part of the love stories of others!

Your love story will reach people in ways that my love story won’t.  It doesn’t matter how good or bad you are at telling your story, the fact is that your story captures an audience that mine won’t, and that Billy Graham’s won’t, either.  The love story God is writing on the soul of a CEO is going to be different than that of a custodian.  Which is more powerful?  Neither.  It is God who makes the story powerful, and you have no less power in a testimony that you were saved when you were 4-years-old in church one Sunday than if you were saved as a gang member in a slum.  We tend to think that certain love stories have more power than others because we tend to trust the events of our lives rather than the working of God.

We look for radical conversions because we think a dramatic testimony is best.  But we miss that all testimonies are radical!  All testimonies are dramatic!  It is no less work for God to save a first-grader in VBS than a death-row convict in a maximum-security prison!  We are all guilty.  We all deserve Hell.  Any conversion is as astonishing as any other, because we are all dead before Christ awakens us to His love.

Keep in mind, too, that your testimony isn’t only the moment you were saved.  God is still writing His love story on your heart, and will be until the moment after you die.  And from there, does the story end?  Not at all, but we can no longer view the story from down here, although we have the promise that it is unimaginably wonderful.  (See 1 Corinthians 2:9 for awesome encouragement!)

If you were saved when you were little, and you don’t have much of a memory of it, you can still testify to God’s love story in your life.  What has God been doing for you this year?  What has He brought you through in your life?  How has He matured you in your faith?  What has He been teaching you lately from His Word?

Every believer has a love story to share with the world.  The bigger question for most of us is, How do we share it?  We might know God has gifted us with a wonderful love story . . but how do we find the nerve to share it?  What if we fumble for words or, even worse, never work up the courage to say even the first word?

Moses had this sort of problem.  He was afraid to speak for God.  Apparently, Moses gave himself a self-evaluation and thought his oration skills were crummy.  Maybe he was holding onto critical feedback he’d gotten in the past.  We don’t know.  We just know that, for whatever reason, he really thought he couldn’t speak.

He tried to talk God out of picking him.  In fact, Moses kept arguing for so long about how he couldn’t speak for God that God got angry with him.  God sent Aaron to help him.

But, what would have happened if Moses had simply trusted God?  We don’t know the details.  God might have already been planning for Aaron to help (Aaron was already on his way coming when God pointed it out to Moses.)  However God would have worked it out, He would have given Moses the right words at the right time, if Moses had just trusted Him.  As it was, Moses learned to address Pharaoh and a sea of moody people.  By the end of his life, Moses gave the people a long speech about what they were to do when they made it to the promise land–at this time, Aaron had already died, so he wasn’t there to speak for Moses.  Moses had to do it on his own!

Let’s not be like Moses was in doubting God and waiting for somebody else to come along and share what God has for us to share.  We have far less excuse for our doubting behavior than Moses did.  He was guilty of sin because He knew a little bit about God (He is the I-AM; He has supernatural power).  But we are far more guilty of sin if we doubt because we have the the completion of God’s Word on the bookshelves of our homes.  We know far more about who God is than Moses ever did in his lifetime.

Pray for God to help you share the love story He is writing in your life.  Pray for Him to give you opportunities to share (and then expect them!).

How can you share your testimony?  It could be mentioned in a conversation or it could be a whole conversation.  It could be one paragraph or a 1,000 page book.  God has given us a love story.  We need to share it.  We need to pray about how God wants us to share it.  And then we need to start sharing by the power of God.

It helps to know it isn’t our story to keep; it’s God’s story He’s given as a gift to be shared.  You wouldn’t be very happy if you gave your oldest child a box of cookies to share with his siblings and found out later that he ate them all.  God can’t be pleased with us when we don’t share the love stories He’s given us to enjoy and bring joy in the lives of others.  If anyone has a copyright on our story, it’s God–not us.  And He has the right to distribute copies.  🙂

Quick ideas for how to share your testimony:

  • Pray before conversations with friends, family, and others (Remember they don’t have to be unsaved.  Your testimony may be sent by God to encourage them in their walk with Him.)
  • Invite opportunities to share (like at a meal, in the break room at work, at a cooperative project at work, etc.)
  • Post quick thoughts on social media like facebook, twitter, pinterest, etc.
  • Blog
  • Journal about what God has placed on your heart lately, and use your journal to share your story with others.
  • Identify yourself as a Jesus-follower by wearing a shirt or jewelry that is distinctively Christian, carrying a Bible with you (not just the app), the way you speak and live your life, etc.  Pray and wait for God to open for questions. 😉
  • Draw, paint, or cartoon about your daily walk.

However God leads you to share His love story, remember that you can only reach others by the power of Christ–not by the power of your tongue.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15b-16, NIV)

Day 29: The Most Unreached

Do you know which continent has the most unreached people, where an estimated 80,000 people die each day without ever once hearing the Name of Christ?

Asia.

Much of Asia is in the 10/40 window.  What is the 10/40 window?

10-40 window

Courtesy of Gospel for Asia.

The 10/40 window is a “window” of the world where 97% of the world’s unreached live–meaning they have never heard or have little opportunity to hear about Christ.

That is overwhelming.  But this is even more shocking to me: only .05% of the resources of the Western church are being sent to this unreached area!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I . . don’t even know where to go on from there.  A part of me wants to be dumbfounded, appalled, and then walk away.  The talk of trying to reach MILLIONS is in honesty sickening to me.  I think it’s why most of us, even as believers, turn away.

If we really gave ourselves the time to realize the horror of 80,000 people dying each day without knowing Jesus, we might never eat out again.  We might never go to another movie.  We might cancel our cable service.  We might wear the clothes we have for another year.  We might even become–missionaries!!

It’s terrifying to think about and so we don’t.

But do you know what is more terrifying to think about?  That millions of people live with a black curtain between them and Christ.

We know Christ tore the curtain separating humanity from God at the cross.  We must imitate in small ways Christ and work to tear down the curtain of ignorance that has cast darkness over most of Asia.

Gospel for Asia is a colossal curtain-tearing movement.  This ministry is as surprising as it is effective.  When you give money to their missions–like sponsoring a child in need or a national missionary . . or buying a goat or rabbits or water buffalo for an direly poor family . . or buying a bicycle or LCD projector for a missionary–100% of your donation goes on-field directly to the mission.  Not a penny is spent on administration.

Do you believe this?  I was very skeptical.  I wasn’t the only one.  Bestselling Christian author Francis Chan was skeptical of the mission, and sent key people from his church to go oversees and check it out.  You can see his testimony to their credibility at this link: http://www.gfa.org/about/endorsements/

He’s not the only one who supports Gospel for Asia.  So does Patrick Johnson of Operation Worldthe Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, and the Independent Charities of America which certified them as “Best in America”, an award given to fewer than 2,000 of the approximate 1,000,000 charities in America.

But how is it possible to give 100% to the field?  I wondered that, and read up on it.  Click this link to read the explanation for yourself.

Through home office staff fundraising for their own salaries and benefits, and low overhead costs . . by trusting God to provide people to give to the home office . . they have been able to survive for OVER 30 YEARS!!  Only if you donate to the “Home Office” fund or “Home Team Staff” fund, or possibly, “Where Most Needed” (which is clearly stated on the site that you may be giving to the home office), does your money go toward administrative costs.

I have never heard of a large-scale ministry operating like this, ever.  I’m blown awayGospel for Asia has something really special going on through God right now, and I want to be in on it.

The variety of ways that you and I can give reflect the scale of the ministry.  This is a huge, huge, HUGE ministry and, as a believer, there is no excuse for us to not help if we have even $1 to our name (which can buy 200 tracts).  (BUT, even if you don’t have a dollar to your name, you can still help–keep reading to find out how.)

The question on Gospel for Asia’s site says it better than I can:

How much would you give to change someone’s eternal destiny?

  • Change your search engine to GoodSearch: this is Super cool and totally free.  Go to GoodSearch.com and for the box “Who do you GoodSearch for?” type in Gospel for Asia and Verify.  50% of the income generated will go to Gospel for Asia.
  • Sell stuff you don’t want anymore on eBay for Gospel for Asia.
  • Tools for Missionaries: Give a musical instrument ($5); funds to help an ‘untouchable’ child have a school uniform, books, tutoring, one nutritious meal a day, and a medical checkup ($50), a VBS (Vacation Bible School) scholarship ($5!), etc.
  • Major MinistriesGive a “Jesus well” for a community as a hub for sharing Christ with villagers ($1,000), a gift to the leprosy ministry, women’s literacy program, persecution relief fund, etc.
  • Empowering the PoorGive an adult tricycle for those who have lost their legs  ($100), an embroidery machine to generate income ($150), a scale ($10) which generates income beause most south Asians go to the market to pay someone to weigh them or their child, a tool kit ($75), etc.
  • From the Stable: Give a rooster and hen ($11), pair of rabbits ($11), a camel ($365), a pair of pigs ($64), etc.
  • Where Most Needed:Widows and Abandoned Children, Home Ministries, Red Light Outreach, etc.
  • Compassionate Services: Flood Relief, Slum Ministry, Blankets ($12), Outdoor Toilet ($160), etc.
  • Giving Bundles: Equipping Missionaries, Gifts of CompassionGreatest Need(This an out-of-the-box idea where you can buy a bundle of gifts to send over, and you can customize your bundle of gifts if you want.)  For example, you can send a bundle under Equipping Missionaries to go to Bible Colleges, Mobile Van Teams, Bicycles, Radio Programming, and Bibles for $195.
  • Christmas Catalog: You can give a milk-producing goat ($70), a BioSand water filter ($30), winter clothing for national missionaries ($40), or even a Barnyard Bundle (6 chickens, 2 goats, 1 lamb, 1 cow, 2 pigs) for $678.
  • Donate your airline miles
  • Non-cash giving: Using your farm, real estate, mutual funds, etc. to support the work in Asia (see Ways to Give tab, click, and select Non-cash giving)
  • Planned giving: Wills, bequests, annuities, trusts (see Ways to Give tab, click, and select Planned giving)

It’s easy to forget about people who live on the other side of the world from us.  But if we do let ourselves forget the, I think that one day when we stand before God and see a people looking back at us with empty eyes . . it will be easy for us to remember who they are.

And then he [Jesus] told them [the apostles], “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” (Jesus, quoted in Mark 16:15, NLT)

Day 28: The Mission of the Handmade & Personal

The school I teach at does what is called “Valentine Grams”.  Parents can buy them for their children, and children can buy them for their classmates.  For 50-cents, a Valentine Gram with a short message and 2 pieces of candy is sent to the classroom.

Every year, I’d have children disappointed and near tears or sulky because they didn’t get a Valentine Gram.  One year, I decided to buy grams for the whole class.  I asked for a message that said something like, “I love you,” and my name.

I was surprised at the reaction I got.  The kids who had already gotten 2 or 3 weren’t always so enthralled.  But for the majority of the class, which had gotten no other gram, they were delighted.  It meant far more to them than two pieces of candy would have meant any other day.  It was something special; it was something that included them in the Valentine’s message.

Not all of us can make (or should try to make) gifts.  If you are like my dear friend who is able to go on Pinterest and exquisitely replicate extraordinary ideas, you go for it!  🙂  God has given you a gift!

If, however, you’re like me, and can’t make so much as a paper frog, you don’t have to panic.  You can still reach others for Christ with the handmade and personal.  Here are a few ideas to get you started–and I’m sure you can do them, because I can do them.  🙂

As you make or personalize a gift, pray for the person you are going to be giving it to.  Pray for them to believe in Christ, walk strong with Him, lean on Him for courage–whatever needs they have in their life, bring to Him.

Hearts ‘n’ Envelope

Cut hearts out of paper.  (Fold a piece of paper in half and cut half-hearts out of the seam.  Unfold them, and you have hearts.)  Make a bunch of hearts, of different colors, and put them in an envelope.  Seal the envelope and give it to a girl in your life: “For my mom” or “For my wife” or “For my daughter”.

Rock

When you’re on vacation or hiking a trail, choose a rock that is special for whatever reason.  (Of course, of course, do not steal someone’s rocks out of their yard or the lot of their business, or take rocks on nature trails where signs tell you not to pick up anything.)  Or, you can buy a rock at a store.  Spend time choosing one that means something to you.  Wrap yarn around the rock and on a price tag (or small gift tag) write a Scripture verse about how God is our rock and how wise we are to build on Him.

Pancakes for Breakfast

Buy frozen pancakes or waffles for breakfast-in-bed or as a surprise to your family.  With very little work, you can dress pancakes and waffles up with toppings like butter, syrup, Nutella, chopped almonds or pecans, and whipped cream.

Thumbprints

You can make VERY simple, adorable drawings with an ink pad and one of Ed Emberley’s books.  These thumbprint/fingerprint drawings add a sweet touch to a gift tag, or you can put one on a Post-it note for friends or family with a short note, prayer, or a reference to a Scripture that’s on your heart.  (Books: Fingerprint Drawing BookGreat Thumbprint Drawing Book, or both books together in Complete Funprint Drawing Book.)

Cookies

Make cookies from the ready-made frozen Pilbury cookie selection.  (They even have all-natural cookies!)  Add a glass of milk, and you have a very special snack for friends or family.  Serve the cookies when they’re still warm!

Etsy

Etsy is to the non-crafter what a log lighter is to a rookie scout.  You can buy a handmade gift that looks like it could go on the cover of a Martha Stewart–as opposed to making a handmade gift that looks like it could go on the cover a Recycle Weekly magazine.  Etsy is bustling with a VARIETY of handmade items.  You can give a beautiful little bar of handmade soap or one-of-a-kind plush animal or a handcrafted Scripture verse necklace.  Many sellers on Etsy are willing to personalize their handmade item, too.

Pottery

If you have a pottery painting shop in your area, you can paint a piece of pottery.  The shop will place your hand painted item in a kiln and glaze it for you.  You don’t have to know much about painting–the glaze will help your piece look great.  🙂  You can paint a person’s name on the pottery or a special Scripture reference to share.

____________________________

Is it worth the time to give a handmade or personalized gift?  If your gift is given in love through Christ, absolutely.  Your gift shares His love in a big way with the world.  If we really give a gift out of love, then we share God’s character traits with our friends and family–those we love most in this world.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12)


Day 27: Missions in a Mailbox

One of the easiest and yet most profound ministries you can do is waiting for you at the post office.  It is the missions of mail.

James, John, Peter, Jude, Paul had the missions of mail.  They all wrote letters to help unite and purify the fellowship of believers.  We have the letters that God inspired them to write in our Bibles.  In the New Testament, all but the four Gospels and Acts (which are historical accounts) are letters–even Revelation!  We don’t think about it, but as we open our New Testament we are really opening a mailbox of letters from James, John, Peter, Jude, and Paul!  (And the writer of Hebrews.)

You and I are never going to write something on the level of the New Testament, because God inspired those letters.  But we do have the opportunity, in a small way, to do what the authors of the New Testament letters did: encourage our believing friends and share the salvation we have found in Christ with our unbelieving friends.

That sounds scary.

A lot of times we don’t send ordinary mail–much less Christ-focused mail–because we think we just can’t do it.  We think,

  • “I wouldn’t know what to say.”
  • “I’d probably say the wrong thing.”
  • “It’d take me too long to write.”
  • “I’m a terrible speller.”

In actuality, no one has an excuse for not using missions in our mailboxes unless we are totally broke and have no access to a computer or cell phone or scrap of paper.  😉

But what if you just can’t write?  If you got an F in your English composition courses?

You do not have to be able to write well to communicate profoundly.  Many friends will appreciate if you just try to write what’s on your heart, even if you’re not the next Robert Frost.

Many of my keepsake “letters” are cartoon drawings with speech bubbles that my father made for me to take on my trip away from home.   If you feel you can’t draw or write or if you feel you don’t have enough time, you can still communicate profoundly by choosing a heartfelt card.

You can give a letter or card through email, too.  One of the most meaningful emails I ever got wasn’t for me.  It was an email my father sent to a friend about my graduation ceremony.  My father only wrote a sentence about it, but he talked about something I’d done at the ceremony.  It has been 7 years since my father died, and I still remember that email.

Even a comment on facebook or in a text can engage a nonbeliever or help a believer in ways you could never expect.  A friend of mine received a daily forward of a Scripture verse from her friend.  One day, she was in the car praying about whether or not to go on a missions trip to Africa, and her friend forwarded her a verse that God used to help her know she needed to go.

If you want to send a non-electronic letter or card to a friend, you don’t have to blow  your savings account on stationary.  😉

  • Regular notebook paper works (and notebooks are usually on sale right before school starts).
  • Check a Christian bookstores in your area to see if they carry the 99-cent Dayspring “Little Inspirations” cards.
  • Look for deals on cards after holidays.
  • You can stock up on blank note cards.
  • If you like a bit of crafts, you can buy patterned paper at a craft store for less than a dollar, fold it in half, and write on the inside.

A lesson I’ve learned, girls, is don’t get so ambitious about the stationary that you get overwhelmed by the choices, or spend too much money or time,  or forget to focus on the message.  If the message doesn’t reflect your heart for Christ, no quality of stationary or handmade card is going to take its place.  The message comes first.  If Peter had waited to write his letters until he knew what kind of patterned paper he wanted, we’d be in real trouble.  Remember, it isn’t the appearance of the letter, but the appearance of Jesus in your letter that matters!

Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. (1 Thessalonians 6:10-11, NLT)

Day 26: The Perfect Stranger

Today’s mission is . .

the perfect stranger.

Unless you live on a farm, you probably walk by strangers every day.

They push their cart past you at Wal-Mart and they refill their drinks alongside you at Taco Bell.  They change the oil in your car at Jiffy Lube and they take your trash bags every Friday.  They wave a wand over you at the airport and they sit across from you in the hospital waiting room.  Their children play with your children at the MacDonald’s Playplace, and their dogs bark at your dogs at the park.  They don’t have the correct change for the vending machine and are taking forever fumbling around in their pockets.  They’re yakking on their cellphone in the middle of your nice dinner date.  They ask for directions to a place you’ve never heard of.  Their kids interrupt your movie experience at the theater.  They sit two rows in front of you at church.  They live in your neighborhood.  They flip you off when you accidentally pull out in front of them.  They walk through the mall holding their pants up with one hand.  They have a second cousin who is your best friend; they load your furniture on their moving van; they try to ‘sell’ you credit cards over the phone; they run their shopping cart into your car and then leave without so much as a note; they find your lost wallet and turn it in; they butt in front of you in the customer service line; they’re walking into their parent teacher conference the minute you’re walking out; they turn their head as they walk by you on the street; they offer you some of their peanuts at the baseball game.

They are everywhere . .

. . and we miss them.

They are everywhere . .

. . but we don’t see them.  Not really.

They are not just strangers, though.  They are perfect strangers.

Perfect to pray for.  Perfect to smile at.  Perfect to strike up a conversation with.  Perfect, even, to lead to Christ.

As you walk by them, they might be scheming how they can convince their parents to get them that candy bar they want; studying for their driver’s ed test, planning for the dress they will wear to prom, how they will get to Planned Parenthood to have an abortion without anybody knowing, what they will do after graduation, how to pay off their college debt, how many to invite to their wedding, what wishlist to make for their baby shower, how to cope with the death of a parent, what the process is for a divorce, which Pinterest ideas are the best for their grandbaby’s nursery, where to move after retirement, or how to cope with the death of a spouse.

We don’t have any idea what they are going through, but that’s not the point.  The point is, God does, and they need to know that God does.

Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17, KJV)

We can pray for them the instant their life–for however brief a moment–twines in with ours.

Praying for strangers is a gift.  A secret gift.  Like a mystery package at the front door with no name or address, we give strangers an unknown gift when we pray for them.  Pray that they will believe in Christ.  Listen to what God would have you pray as you pass them by.  Look at them and ask a personal prayer.

Here’s an example.  Most of us had rough teenage years and did things we regret.  When you pass by a teenager in the mall, you might pray, God, please draw this teenager to Your salvation.  Help him not make lifelong regrets in this early part of life.  Give him the courage to stand up against the crowd.

As you walk by people, or as they serve you or you serve them, or as they help you or curse you, ask God to help you pray for them.  In a crowd, ask God to draw you to the one person to pray for and how to pray for them.

When God providentially gives you the opportunity (and that doesn’t mean you wait for a banner in the sky–a providential opportunity could be when you talk to the bank teller in the drive-thru line), strike up a conversation.  I have discovered that many people are very open to talking to strangers.

I have also discovered that some people are not open.  I can usually tell in an initial comment whether the conversation is going to lead somewhere or dead-end.  For example, if I say, “Can you believe this weather?  It’s the last part of March and there’s still snow on the ground!” and the stranger responds, “Mm-hm” without making eye contact, this probably isn’t going to lead somewhere.  But if the stranger responds, “Yeah–I’m usually wearing shorts right now.  I had to go to my son’s football game in a coat last night.” I have an idea that the conversation will go somewhere.  But either way, I always have to be listening to God’s direction, and refining my sensitivity to hear that direction by staying in His Word, obeying Him, fellowshipping with His community of believers, and asking for help through the Lord Jesus Christ.

A word to the wise: be ready to witness when you talk to perfect strangers.  God finds perfect opportunities for you to share your faith and all we have to do is honor Him.  It’s that simple.  You don’t have to push for doors that aren’t open.  But if a door is open to share–whether it’s a casual comment about your faith or a serious conversation on apologetics–be “on guard” as William Lane Craig puts it.

. . in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (from 1 Peter 3:15, NIV)

Suggestions for how to pray for and talk to perfect strangers:

  • Read God’s Word every morning and throughout the day.  You might listen to His Word in your car or iPod.  If you aren’t prepared, God will find less opportunities to use you.  We could accidentally discourage someone from receiving Christ if our lives aren’t on track with Him.  The more we read the Bible, the more we will be ready–and looking for–God to give us moments to witness.
  • Pray for strangers as they walk by you.  If you’re in a crowd, ask God to help you choose one stranger to pray for and how to pray for them.
  • Strike up a conversation with a simple, unintimidating question or comment.
  • Don’t avoid someone because they look too “anti-Christian” to you.  You don’t know where God’s got their heart.
  • Don’t get distracted by how someone is dressed, how foul their language is, what bad habits they have, or how immoral their way of thinking is.  Remember, you are witnessing.  There isn’t much point in witnessing to a Christian, now is there?  😉  And since everyone is equally lost, you need to be patient with them.  You are not trying to change who they are.  You are trying to change Who they know.  (And He will change who they are!)
  • If someone isn’t open to conversation, pray for them.  If you’re going to be around them for a while (like on a bus or plane trip or in a doctor’s office), ask God if you should try to start up a conversation again later.
  • Understand your faith.  No one has all the answers except God.  On the other hand, God doesn’t call us to ignorance.  We are to know the Truth because He is the Truth!  Ask God to help you become wise as you read the Scriptures.  Consider visiting websites, buying books, watching videos, and engaging with other Christians about apologetics issues.  Go to a Sunday school or small group at your church to delve deeper into God’s Word and learn from other believers’ wisdom.

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. (Colossians 4:5, NLT)

Day 25: Jesus on Campus

110,000,000.

That’s a big number.

That’s about the number of college students worldwide[1].

According to Barna Research, 6 out of 10 young adults who were a part of church life as a teenager are already gone by their twenties.  (See Already Gone, Answers in Genesis)

We so very much need to be bringing people to Christ at every stage in life.  Reaching the college stage of life is critical.  College students become the next generation of missionaries, teachers, scientists, authors, artists, musicians, athletes, etc.  If we want the next generation to be lights for Christ in every adventure they voyage after throwing their caps at graduation, we can’t sit back and wait for this to happen.  As believers, we need to be praying, giving, and reaching out to this generation to share the flame God has given us.

Campus Crusades for Christ (abbreviated CRU) reaches college students around the world.  CRU is like a bonfire effort to set the next generation alight for Christ.  CRU illuminates college campuses (and beyond) through a nearly OVERWHELMING number of missions.  There is no way I can talk about them all here.  But here are a few

  • Campus outreach
  • Spring break missions
  • Connecting students to mission trips that share the Jesus Film in countries where even the Name of Jesus is unknown to many
  • Connecting students to mission trips that provide global aid through Gain.
  • A “wildfire” of online devotions for students
  • Producing a Worldwide Challenge Magazine
  • A website that answers questions about Christianity for non-believing college students

CRU is endorsed by Billy Graham, Kay Arthur, and Lou Giglio . . as well as the ministries Samaritan’s Purse (headed up by Franklin Graham), Prison Fellowship, Wycliffe Bible Translations USA, and New Tribes Mission.  In addition, CRU is a charter member of the Evangelical Council for Accountability.

I wish I had been an on-fire believer in my early twenties.  Sadly, I was one of the “already gone” talked about in the Barna Research.  Campus Crusades for Christ helps reach young adults at one of their most vulnerable times and when they are probably the most likely to make impulsive, foolish, and reckless decisions that may bear consequences throughout their life, or even result in death.  Not only do these college students have an opportunity to engage with God’s Word, but those who make a decision to be lamps for Christ can light up the world around them–in more ways than we can possibly imagine in our very dark current America.

“You are the light of the world–like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.” (Jesus, quoted in Matthew 5:14, NLT)

____________________________________

[1] Campus Crusades for Christ, http://www.cru.org/about-us/what-we-do/index.htm

Put to death

So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. (Colossians 3:5-6, NLT)

Put to death.

That’s a strong term.

Not one I use in my daily life.

Put to death.

Not try to end.

Not start to overcome.

Put to death.

When something is put to death, it doesn’t get up again.

When something is put to death, it doesn’t come back for another round.

When something is put to death, the only place it can be found is the graveyard.

Put to death.

If you are a believer, you are not to try to deal with

the sinful, earthly things lurking within you

And you are not to expect God to deal with

the sinful, earthly things lurking within you

without your participation.

You are called to be a warrior and PUT THEM TO DEATH.

When Theoden’s army is hemmed in by thousands of orcs at Helm’s Deep he doesn’t try to shoo them away.  He doesn’t open the gates to them and invite them in for a heart-to-heart.  He doesn’t throw a few swords and rocks down from the wall to try to stop them.  And he doesn’t have a dinner banquet with his army.

He MAKES WAR.

He brings every man and even boy to the battle line.  He uses every sword, spear, arrow, and chunk of rock they have.  He dresses his army in every piece of armor they have.  And he sounds the cry and they make war.

And when those orcs throw their ladders up the side of the helm and climb up, they are not greeted with pats on the head or offers for counseling.

Swords slash, arrows pierce, and spears impale.

The goal of every man and boy in Theodred’s army is to put to death every orc they can.

I agree with Tedashii in his song Make War–we get ourselves so scared about sin and so cowardly towards arousing the enemy’s anger that we do not do the battle God has called us to do.  We do NOT

put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within

We do NOT fight.

We wait for God to do battle for us.

John Eldridge is right when he says something similiar: God may give us a few freebies where He does the work for us, especially when we’re new believers, but we are enlisted in His army–not invited to pull up a lawn chair on the sidelines or cower somewhere off in a corner.  We are called to MAKE WAR.  We are called to kill the

sinful, earthly things lurking within

Not to reason with them, ignore them, bribe them, or even wound them.

We are called to kill them.

Put them to death!

. . But how on earth do we do this?

In a way, it feels harder than taking up a sword at Helm’s Deep and warding off ten thousand orcs.  How do we fight against something that isn’t in the physical realm?

Ephesians 6:10-18.

Look at this passage.  Read it.  Really read it.  And you will know what you have to do to MAKE WAR against the sin that grows like choking vines from our inward self, grows right up in our brain and out our mouth and arms and legs and eyes and controls how we think, what we say, and what we do.

put to death

DESTROY.

NO MORE.

GONE FOREVER.

Make war today.

And put to death the sin within you through the power and authority of Christ Jesus.

Don’t forget to read Ephesians 6:10-18.

So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. (Colossians 3:5-6, NLT)