A girl named Inna

You’ve heard it said “a picture is worth a thousand words.” I like to think a good picture should not only be worth a thousand words, but should tell a story. Some pictures can go beyond that to tell multiple stories.

 I’m looking at a photograph I ‘ve carried with me for over a decade. In some ways, it is self-explanatory. This is obviously a baptism, probably in Russia. The man in the blue robe seems to be the pastor. The three younger people with him, the baptismal candidates. Just that makes a good picture. But there’s more.

 My attention was caught by the girl at the end of the line. With her head bowed, it’s difficult to see much about her, other than she is a young woman. Something about her caught my heart, and I made an inner commitment to pray for her. I prayed regularly that she had indeed found Christ. I prayed that she would grow in Christ. I prayed that God would bring a support group around her.

As time went on, I learned her name was Inna. She had been a addicted to drugs and alcohol, and was then in a rehab program at Transformation Christian Center. I was told she had met a young man at the center and they planned to be married. All of this information fueled my prayers as I held her before the Lord.

 A couple of years later I had the opportunity to visit this center in Russia. I was very excited about the possibility of actually meeting Inna. To me she was the both a real Christian sister as well as a living representation of the work being done through that ministry.

 At my first chance on site, I began wandering around the complex, looking for someone who might be Inna. After walking around fruitlessly for a time, I spied a small figure sitting on a step. Going by the only photograph I had, it would be difficult to identify her, but I would give it a try. Walking up to her, I pulled out half of my Russian language knowledge and said “Menya zavut David” -- my name is David. She responded “Menya zavut Inna.”

 It was her! Now what? I didn’t know any more Russian, and it was obvious she knew even less English. We smiled at each other, became mutually embarrassed, and I finally waved my hand, mumbled “da svedanya” or good-bye, and walked away.

 The next day I was standing with a bilingual missionary when I saw Inna walking past. Calling to her I asked Rick to translate for us. I began by telling her about the photograph. Yes, she smiled as she remembered the day she was baptized. “Inna,” I said. “Ever since I saw that photograph of your baptism, I’ve been praying for you.”

 Inna looked confused for a moment, then looked up at Rick and began to say, “why would anyone pray for someone that they did not know?”

 Before she had even finished that question, I saw something new come into her eyes – an answer to her own question. This was something she had never thought of before. As she looked to me, it was as if a bright light came on behind her eyes. For possibly the first time in her life, Inna realized she had a larger family beyond her new husband, beyond her fellow residents in rehab, even beyond the missionary community. In a new burst of understanding she realized she was part of a worldwide family – – God’s church, where people knew who she was, prayed for her, and loved her unconditionally.

 On that day Inna learned something new. So did I. I saw the power of a simple photograph and understood anew the power of prayer and encouragement within the family of God.

 Maybe the best thing about this story is that this is only part one. Stay tuned.

Next Generation

Watching the eyes of the children glisten needed no translation. Visiting our partners in Vietnam was not only an opportunity to watch children learn, but it was an privilege to see the next generation being mentored by Christians. While they may have been learning English pronunciation, their hearts were being mentored in the love of God.

Paul understood well the importance of passing down learning as well as his faith on to the next generation. Time and time again he prepares the way for Timothy's ministry and even writes letters training him up. This piece of training up the next generation is pivotal to the work we do in Mandate. Nations that are unengaged, nations that are starving, nations in which the church is declining, are all places that may not be fully revived in our lifetime. For that reason, we are to be training the next generation of entrepreneurs for God. What ideas are they going to create to bring the Kingdom to the least reached? How are they going to take the work the Lord has started in us one step farther?

In the secular world there is a commonly known occasion called bring your daughter to work day or bring your son to work day. This is an opportunity for your child to see you in action. By watching how you work, the child gets a window into the work he or she could choose to take on.

There is a need for a spiritual “take your child to work” mentality. If you use your profession as a ministry, begin speaking to those of the younger generation about how to bring the gospel into your secular job. If your work is ministry, begin teaching and equipping the younger generation to carry on ministering to the community. Watching what you do is only the first part of it. The second part is hearing from you the testimony and lessons the Lord has worked in you.

This week take some time to reflect how you are imparting the work and calling the Lord has given to you to the next generation. Be in prayer for these workers that will carry on what was started at the time of Christ Himself.

Starting Now

There are places at times that our hearts just long for. Paul knew this well. He wrote in Romans

I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong” Romans 1:11

Maybe there is a nation or a place in the world that you think of like this. You long to be doing spiritual work there today. You may be in a season in which going to that nation isn't possible due to conflict in the area, health or life conditions that have happened in your life, or a variety of other reasons. Paul wrote just a few verses later in that same letter:

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.” Romans 1:13

There is a way that you can effect massive healing and change for that nation starting today- even from a distance. The apostle Paul's ministry, as evident in all his letters, was clearly one of intercession. While the phrase “there is power in prayer” seems rote, it is very true.

We see Jesus come up on the centurion in Matthew 8:5-13, and the centurion's servant was suffering from paralysis. He knew, however, the long distance power of prayer. When Jesus offered to come to him, the faith of the centurion responds that he knows Jesus's healing would be just as effecting from a distance. True to his faith, in that very moment, the servant was healed.

Through prayer, we have the power to be all over the world in a moment. And it doesn't just stop at healing. National change can be effected through fasting and prayer, and we have evidence of this in the Old Testament. Esther had Mordecai and the Jews enter a time of prayerful fasting before she approached the king, and the result was deliverance and radical legal change.

Wherever God has you stationed right now in the world, don't let your prayers be limited to that place. Begin praying for other nations with the same purposefulness and strategy modeled by Esther, Paul, Jesus, and many more. These prayers prepare the way for the Lord and the workers in those nations.

New Years Revelation

Have you gotten your new years revelation yet? That's right. That's not a typo. Most of us are familiar with the New Year's resolution. It is something we make. We create our resolutions, and these are things that we strive to make happen. Even more important, however, is seeking God in prayer and asking Him to open your heart to a “New Year's Revelation”. This is something we receive. Revelation is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as “a surprising a previously unknown fact, especially one that is made know in a dramatic way”, or “the divine or supernatural disclosure to humans of something relating to human existence or the world”. In 2019, take on something new or unknown. Get disclosure from God to how you can be used by Him to impact the human existence or the world.

Here at Mandate, we interact with people all of the world doing this. In the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul says (in 10:31), “So whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”. So the first question is what do you do? Are you in customer service? Do you work in construction? Are you in the medical field? Do you teach? Whatever you do, do for the glory of God. That's our second question- how can you use what you do for the glory of God? How can you live in such a way that it's a ministry to your coworkers and customers? How can you create and seize opportunities to share your testimony and the gospel through your work? How can you simultaneously meet a need in the market by serving your specific position while also meeting a need in the Kingdom by serving the people you're place with.

Take some time this week to get with God in your quiet time. Ask Him the brave question. Ask Him for new ideas of how to use the gifts and talents He has given you. It will be something new, and change is always a little scary. But ask Him to show you how you can make changes- big or small- this year to serve Him with what you're doing. Don't know where to start? Reach out to us! See our “Contact” page to get started. Whether it's going to a new nation with your professional skills with the goal of serving His Kingdom or if it's prayerfully or financially supporting those who do, we can help assist you in fulfilling what He is putting on your heart. Don't let another year go by without a vision. “Where there is no vision, the people perish, but he that keepeth the law, happy is he” (Proverbs 29:18).

What STILL drives disciples?

From the earliest disciples to our day, we can trace the links of faith in Christ and an unbroken belief that He is the only way of salvation for anyone, anywhere. From recent martyr John Allen Chau to David Brainerd to Jim Elliot to apostle Simon Peter to Jesus Christ himself, and so many in between.

I am concerned with recent trends in evangelical theology which allow for people to be saved without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. In my heart, I would love to believe that God will give the unreached a second chance, or that He has already provided a way for them to be saved without Christ. I cannot find any clear proof of this in the Bible or in church history.

Theologian Ronald Nash writes, "Evangelicals believe that Jesus is the only Savior. There is no other Savior and no other religion . . . that can bring human beings to the saving grace of God."

I cannot, in good faith or conscience, presume on God's grace or my own soft heart and sit complacently in my seat while millions of people die without any opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ!

What drives Christ's disciples today? The most obvious answer is that we believe that without Christ, there is no hope for salvation. We know that everyone who does not have faith in Christ is lost and condemned. No one can gain eternal life without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Knowing this, we also realize our responsibility -- our privilege -- to share this good news with those who do not yet know.

What Drives Disciples?

Jim Elliot is a name familiar to many of my generation. If you don't know who he is, his story is worth reading. Christian singer Twila Paris took a line from Jim Elliot's journal and turned it into the song,

 He is no fool, if he should choose,

to give the things he cannot keep to buy what he can never lose.

To see the treasure in one soul

that far outshines the brightest gold;

He is no fool, he is no fool.

 

Jim was sold out to Jesus Christ. He set his face towards missions early in life and single-mindedly pursued that goal until he arrived in Ecuador. Jim was one of five men trying to establish contact with the fierce Auca Indian tribe. On one day in 1957 all five were killed by the people they were trying to help. They left five widows and families. They also became testimonies to those of that generation, myself included, who would move into missionary service partially because of their example.

 What drove this disciple? What made Jim Elliot leave a comfortable home for the jungles of South America? What compelled him to put his life in jeopardy by approaching the Auca? The most obvious answer is that he believed that without Christ, there is no hope for salvation. He wrote in his journal, "I dare not stay home while Quichuas perish." He knew that everyone who does not have faith in Christ is lost and condemned. No one can gain eternal life without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Knowing this, he also realized his responsibility -- his privilege -- to share this good news with those who did not yet know.

What Drives Disciples?

Orphaned at age 14, dismissed from college for criticizing a teacher, unsuccessful in his first attempts at ministry, this man did not seem much of an inspiration.

 In the mid-1700’s, David Brainerd became a missionary to the Seneca and Delaware Indians then living in the colonies of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. More recently, as I’ve had the chance to drive highways and back roads in those areas, I’ve actually seen historical markers noting his paths of travel.

 Brainerd literally coughed his life away on those colonial roads as he traveled and preached, all the while dying of tuberculosis. Contemporary accounts say that his path was often marked by two knee prints in the snow -- where he had knelt to pray -- and spots of red between them where he had coughed blood during his prayers. He died in 1749, at the relatively young age of 29.

 In his journal he wrote about the Indians he was trying to reach, noting their ". . . inability to extricate and deliver themselves from [their fallen state]" and the " . . . absolute need of Christ to redeem and save them . . . “This certain belief led Brainerd to teach ‘of Christ as the only way to the Father’."

 What drove this disciple? What made David Brainerd leave his home to travel by horse and foot through some of the wildest lands these colonies had to offer? What compelled him to shorten his life by expending what little strength he had in pushing forward again and again?

 The most obvious answer is that he believed that without Christ, there is no hope for salvation. Everyone who does not have faith in Christ is lost and condemned. No one can gain eternal life without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Knowing this, he also realized his responsibility -- his privilege -- to share this good news with those who did not yet know.

What Drives Disciples; Peter

This is coming to you from the same driven personality who wrote last week’s blog, where I concluded with the question, “What drove Jesus to come to earth and die for the sins of humanity?”

My conclusion then was that Jesus was driven both by the Father's love for his creation and the necessity of God's redemptive plan. Jesus knew that without his sacrifice, there would be no hope. Everyone who does not have faith in Christ is already lost and condemned. (John 3:38) No one can gain eternal life without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Having accomplished that way to God the Father, Jesus also knew that truth had to be shared beyond his small band of followers. When he told his disciples -- and, through them, us -- to "go and make disciples of all nations . . ." (Matthew 28:19a), he gave them the foundation on which to build his church.

That first generation of disciples did a better job than any since. They reached their entire known world with the gospel message. What enabled them to do this? What drove those disciples?

I love the whole Bible, but those who know me well should have no doubt about my favorite Bible character. Some years ago, in the Sunday school class we attend we studied 2 Timothy. Our teacher liked to give study questions. At the end of this unit, one of his questions was, "What would you like to ask Paul when you see him in heaven?" My answer to that was, "Do you know the way to Peter's house?" Without doubt he is my favorite, and I plan to spend a lot of my time in eternity comparing notes with Simon Peter.

Peter was probably the most prominent of the disciples from the time of the resurrection until Paul came on the scene. As the most visible, and probably most vocal, follower of Christ, he had several run-ins with non-Christian authorities. During one of these encounters, Peter and John were arrested and jailed overnight. When brought before the Jewish leaders the next day, “they were commanded . . . not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18).

The smart thing to do would have been to agree with the authorities and either stop preaching or at least tone things down. It might have been a good time to make a strategic withdrawal or to just get out of town. The book of Acts records that the rulers called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:18-20). With this, Peter was referring to what he had already told them, in what we read as Acts 4:12, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

What drove Peter? What made him take the lead on the day of Pentecost and share Christ with thousands of people? What made him stand up to these authorities? He believed that without Christ, there is no hope for salvation. Everyone who does not have faith in Christ is lost and condemned. No one can gain eternal life without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Knowing this, he also realized his responsibility -- his privilege -- to share this good news with those who did not yet know.

 Though Peter lived almost 2000 years ago, he was not the last person to be driven by that truth. Next week.

 

What Drives Disciples?

As I approach formal retirement, I can honestly say cross-cultural missions has dominated my life. I believe our God is a missionary God. I believe one of the primary purposes of the church is to ensure that all peoples, everywhere, have the opportunity to hear and understand the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ.

In some ways, I am a driven personality. I can almost hear my family and friends shouting a hearty Amen! to that. I see what needs to be done and I try to do it or get it done.

I don't mind the label, because I have that trait in common with others I admire. It’s not enough to just share that label with you. Most of you reading this don’t know me as a person, but I do want you to know what it is that drives me. Why am I in missions? Why am I a part of Mandate? Why am I even writing this blog entry?

As we move along this month, I'm going to compare this with the Jesus and some of his followers, ancient and modern, who were also driven people. Let's see what made them tick. In short, What Drives Disciples?

Jesus was often a frustrating person to those around him. When his friends asked a simple question, he rarely replied with a simple answer. Instead, he usually turned it out into a teaching opportunity. On the other hand, when his enemies asked questions, such as "Who are you?" "Where did you come from?" or "Why are you here?" he often turned the tables, answering their questions with some hard ones of his own.

At least once, though, he gave a very simple answer to that question.

The scene was set in Luke 19. Jesus had come into the city of Jericho and had singled out a tax collector named Zacchaeus. During the dinner that followed, Zacchaeus confessed faith and repentance. He then showed the reality of his faith by pledging to make restitution. Jesus commended his faith, then made the broader remark, “the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

Think about how many times Jesus tried to tell his disciples why he was with them and what his life and death would mean. They were a hard-headed bunch and couldn’t seem to understand what he was saying. Even just before his crucifixion Jesus had said, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds" (John 12:23-4).

It wasn't until after the resurrection that they began putting it all together. Even then, they needed help. Within hours of his resurrection, Jesus still had to explain to two of his friends, "‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them,‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem’" (Luke 24:44-47).

So, what drove Jesus to come to earth and die for the sins of humanity? Perhaps the best summation of that were his very familiar words of John 14:6, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." He was driven both by the Father's love for His creation and the necessity of God's redemptive plan. Jesus knew that without his sacrifice, there would be no hope. Everyone who does not have faith in Christ is already lost and condemned. No one can gain eternal life without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Where is the Weight?

For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

Matthew 25:14-30

The Greek word used for talents, rather than equating to a monetary value, literally translates to “weight”. Viewing this common parable through this lens changes the perspective considerably. What holds the most “weight” in our lives? Whatever we value most, we often put the most time and money into. God has given certain things “weight” in our hearts and lives. He has fashioned us with unique propensities towards enjoying different things. These interests usually in some way tie into how He intends to use us for His kingdom.

What has weight in your life? What are you passionate about? What do you sow your time and money into? A business? Children? A career? Friends? The parable shows two opposing responses to how we can respond to these things in our lives. We can invest or we can bury. In the parable, it was the talents that were buried, but I'd like to suggest that often times in this day and age it's our talents- what we place weight in- that can bury US. We can sink so much finances or time into one of these things that holds weight in our heart that we end up losing ourselves. We lose out on the opportunity to multiply those things we love. Ironically, just as in the parable, we often think that we are protecting or nurturing these things by pouring into them so much and keeping such a tight hold on them.

When we do as the other two in the parable model and RELEASE these things we hold dearest to be used by the Kingdom of God, in that release we actually GAIN more. What does this look like practically? If you have a business, to what degree are you using your business as a vehicle through which to love, minister, and share the gospel? If you have children, to what extent have you dedicated them back to the Lord, sowing into them seeds of the gospel? If you place weight on your career, to what extent have you given your talents to the Lord and asked Him how He can use them in your workplace or in the marketplace? If your friends hold the most weight in your life, to what degree are those friendships connections that build up and draw each other near to the Lord?

Our challenge this week is to look at what has your time, energy, and money. Examine what has emotional weight in your heart. Then take these things to the Lord, asking how you can use them more for His Kingdom. For to the one who has, more will be given.