For the mothers who will not celebrate this weekend

Visiting an Asian country a few years ago, I met a prominent national Christian family and heard, first-hand, their story. This is a true story about people in a country where Christianity is an unwanted minority religion, so I cannot name the people or country. This couple and their two grown sons were all committed to openly following Christ in this hostile environment. Worse, for them, they were actively engaged in open Christian ministry.

 Their first son was brutally killed by a local mob during an anti-Christian riot in another part of the country. It could well have been a targeted killing.

 Their second son was traveling in the Middle East. One day his parents received word he had died and his body was being returned for burial. They were never told and were never able to determine the cause of death.

 When I heard this from the father, my first reaction, as head of a Christian ministry myself, was somewhat intellectual. My mind went to thoughts of protecting ministers and missionaries. Then, ashamed of myself, I identified with the father and how well he was dealing with the loss.

 Then I thought of the mother of these two slain men. How she must have said “Good-bye” to them as they each went out the door on separate days, never to hear their voices, never to see their smiles, never to put her arms around them again in this world.

 I thought of the prophet Jeremiah’s words, quoted in Matthew 2:18, “A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” I know there’s no direct correlation between these verses and this modern tragedy, but I thought about how many mothers have been forced to re-live an event like this, only because they were living their faith among those who did not.

 Unfortunately, this is one story I know, among so many others. A recent report from the British government states that Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world. 80% of those persecuted for religious faith today are Christians!  We’re only shocked by that because we’ve forgotten words of Scripture such as “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10) and “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

 And I think of all the mothers mourning for their children.

 It would be only human to be angry, to hate those who do things like this. We might expect our government to do something, anything. Some among us might even want to personally lash out to punish or kill our persecutors.

 And then I think, wouldn’t it be better to focus our pain and attention on winning our persecutors to Christ? These are the lost, the unreached peoples of the world. They persecute our family-in-Christ out of ignorance. We can’t ignore this persecution, but we can use it, instead, as impetus to overcome ignorance, hate, and violence with the saving and life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ.

 For the sake of mothers everyone, let’s get on to the with the last command of Jesus Christ, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”

Resurrection? So what?

Lew Wallace had been a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War. A decade later he was a lawyer and trying to become an author. Coming into contact with one of the most famous atheists of his day, he was embarrassed. Not embarrassed by the two hours of anti-religion he absorbed during that conversation, but by his own indifference and ignorance of that area of life.

 In an academic way, that encounter convinced him to study Christianity. Even as a nonbeliever he had always enjoyed the story of the wise men who came to Bethlehem after Jesus’ birth. He had even begun a fictional novel based around that event, which he also considered mostly fiction. Now, he thought, he would carry that story down to the equally fictitious crucifixion which would, in his own words, “compel me to study everything of pertinency; after which possibly, I would be possessed of opinions of real value. It only remains to say that I did as resolved, with results – – first, the book Ben Hur, and second, a conviction amounting to absolute belief in God and the Divinity of Christ.”

 Closer to our own day, a Chicago Tribune journalist and atheist named Lee Strobel began a similar investigation. When his wife became a Christian, Strobel began exploring the historicity and truthfulness of that faith.

 Explaining his quest, Strobel wrote, "Some people are more experiential . . . but because I come from a law background, a legal background, and a journalism background, I tend to respond to facts and evidence. My way of processing my spiritual journey was to ask the question ‘Is there any evidence that supports Christianity being true?’"

 Ultimately, that two-year process convinced him that all evidence led to the conclusion that Christianity is true. As with Lew Wallace before him, Strobel acted on that evidence and made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ in 1981.

 So what?

 This coming Sunday is Easter. Millions of Christians across nations, cultures, denominations, and churches, will join in the ritual affirmation that Jesus Christ did rise from the dead. As my Orthodox friends express it, “Christ is risen; He is risen indeed!” That is what Easter is all about.

 The 11th chapter of First Corinthians is all about the resurrection. The writer, Paul, might not have personally witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion, and almost certainly did not witness the resurrection. By the time of this writing, however, both were as real to him as could be. Paul used this chapter to emphasize the importance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 He began by saying “by this gospel you are saved…” then explaining this gospel as, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, … he was buried, … he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” And “…if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. …And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”

 True belief in the resurrection of Christ also calls for a response.

 Consider Paul, the man who started out as Saul of Tarsus. In the early chapters of the book of Acts, the resurrection had already taken place, but this Saul did not accept that as truth. Until … on a mission to persecute members of the young church, as recorded in Acts chapter 9, the living Christ appeared to Saul.

 We don’t know how long this encounter lasted, but the recorded events outline a significant change. First the Lord grabs Saul’s attention with a bright light. Next comes Saul’s response, the question asked and answered “who are you, Lord?” Then, demonstrating what happens when a person comes face-to-face with the reality of the resurrection, Saul displays his change in faith/allegiance with the question “what shall I do, Lord?”

 As with Saul of Tarsus, Lew Wallace, Lee Strobel and thousands of others through the last 2000+ years, the realization of the absolute truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ led to the genuine belief that the risen Christ is Savior of the world, and to the conscious commitment to trust in him alone for salvation.

 There’s another point to be made. If the resurrection is genuine and true, then all of the works and words of Jesus Christ are equally genuine and true. “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save the lost.” “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.”

 No wonder his post-resurrection followers were so determined to share the news of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ with all peoples. They believed, as stated by Peter in 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.”

 Let’s finish this off with words again from the apostle Paul. Many consider Paul to be the first, or, at least, the preeminent missionary of the early church. Essentially, he gave up all rights and privileges to his own life for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He wanted everyone to hear this good news and worked diligently so that all who heard might understand and believe as he did. One of his stunning declarations came in 1 Corinthians 9:16 where he wrote, “I am compelled [constrained, required, cannot-do-anything-but] to preach [proclaim, share, tell, bear witness].” And “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”

 So what?

 So, do you believe the resurrection?

 So, what does the truth of the resurrection mean to you personally?

 So, what are you doing about it?

Leadership and Vision

Vision, leader(ship), and goals are words often used to identify or describe Christian organizations.

 In the case of Mandate, to make this personal, vision is the expectation, shared by the entire team, of what we think God wants us to accomplish.

 The leader is someone God brings to team who can share the vision, help the entire team accept it as their own, and guide them towards making the vision a reality.

 Since vision is sometimes a fuzzy concept, the goals are specific, measurable outcomes which lead to the realization of the vision.

Wow, that sounds a bit dry and academic. Sorry about that. But keep on reading.

Over Mandate’s 20+ years, God has provided three leaders to take the position of Executive Director. I’m not going to name names here, but do want to highlight the leadership roles of these three.

The founder of Mandate was a man with a lifetime of cross-cultural experience. He was able to foresee the necessary changes in missionary methods needed to bring the message of Christ into areas where traditional missions could not go. With the help of others who could catch his vision, he was able to build a new type of organization around our first written vision statement.

To lead mission agencies and churches worldwide in partnership to place their people in key locations in order to reach the least-reached people of the world according to the Great Commission by providing to provide highly qualified personnel to serve in the areas of health, education, enterprise development, appropriate technology and economic development.

 Through his decade of leadership, this pioneer established Mandate and led workers into India and Nepal. In the process, he helped other agencies and churches unselfishly pool their personnel and resources to effectively pursue both vision and goals. His final leadership role was setting the example for an orderly leadership transition, which brought in . . .

The man who became Mandate’s second Executive Director was hooked by an e-mail which began, “We’ve been waiting for you.” This man also had many years of missionary experience, including establishing churches among unreached tribal groups and home office administrative and leadership roles. He fully embraced the vision and Mandate model and helped streamline the purpose statement.

We are working to grow God’s kingdom among the least reached peoples of the world through the relationships and proactive witness of development-oriented Christian professionals. 

And, in an even more succinct purpose statement:

Serve the people, build His Church.

During his leadership, Mandate moved from the two original countries of service into Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar.

Over the past three years, Mandate had developed and carried out a plan to bring in a new leader in 2019. This led to a newest Executive Director being appointed by the Board of Directors earlier this month. Younger than those who’ve gone before her, with both organizational and cross-cultural experience, she is poised to expand Mandate’s draw in the U.S. and outreach overseas. She and the entire Mandate organization believe that God has called and gifted her to lead us into the next decade and beyond.

Our new Executive Director will take this page next week to share more about herself and express some of her goals for the future. Having heard these goals directly from her, I know you’ll be thrilled to read them here. So, please come back next Friday, March 29, and help us look into the future.

Our history is "His Story"

History is often very obviously “His Story.” And Mandate is part of that greater story. Let’s take a minute together for a quick tour.

 Mandate was founded over two decades ago on the back side of the wave which was the unreached peoples movement. Church and missions had realized that thousands of groups of people around the world, defined by geography, language, ethnicity, or religious identity had never had a valid opportunity to hear the gospel. Oh, yes, they might have heard the Christian message, but not in a way they could understand or respond to.

 To make it worse, most of those people groups lived in areas where traditional Christian missions could not openly go.

 The question was, how do we think outside the mission box to find ethical and legal ways to get the gospel to those who had been so neglected?

 In response, the men and women who brought Mandate into being pictured an organization which would openly send development professionals to these areas. Those being sent would be qualified in professions such as agriculture, medicine, and education. They would have academic credentials as well as experience. They would be placed in contractual employment positions. They would also be committed followers of Jesus Christ. As such, these workers were expected to find overt opportunities to share their faith with those around them.

 They expressed their vision and goals like this: “To work in partnership [and] place people in key locations in order to reach the least-reached people of the world according to the Great Commission, and to provide highly qualified personnel to serve in the areas of health, education, enterprise development, appropriate technology and economic development.”

 More interested in doing good and sharing their faith than in reproducing their own organization, Mandate did not incorporate themselves inside their target areas, but established working partnerships with like-minded national NGOs already there.

 Within a very short time, workers sent by Mandate were in place in Nepal, India, and Vietnam. We had farmers in Nepal, homeless ministries in India, even English teachers actually working for the central government in Vietnam.

 Twenty-some years ago, these ideas were on the cutting edge of new missionary strategy.

 But were these ideas new? Although the workers on-the-ground in Nepal at the time did not realize it, this was exactly what God had been doing through them in that country for decades. As noted by a Nepali pastor, “The . . . missionaries who came from foreign [countries] were located within camp doing just social works and they were not allowed to go out. But they were able to send the native missionaries who were trained by them, to go to the village and establish the Churches. . . . Until 1960, there were only four Churches in four different places with 100 believers. In 1970, the numbers of Christian increased to 2,000, and in 1980 it was 20,000. In 1990 . . . the number of the Christian was estimated at 100,000. By the end of 2001, there were over 500,000 Christians and 500 Churches in the country.” A recent report declares there are now 2.5 million Christian believers in this country. Get that? From 100 to 2,500,000 in 50 years! What God has done in one country he can do again and again.

 After twenty years, we can still say, being part of God’s work, following God’s pattern for today, is what Mandate is all about.

 Oh, there is definitely more to Mandate’s story. To know more about Mandate, including our most recent expansion, please browse through our website at www.GoMandate.org.

What is a rubber dummy?

“What in the world is a rubber dummy?”

 Jen is a computer programmer. She had been describing the process of developing a new commercial program. “Then,” she had explained, “when I think I’m all finished, I have to use a rubber dummy.” That’s when I interrupted her. “What in the world is a rubber dummy?”

 “When I think I’m finished with the whole program, I have to make sure other people know what it’s all about and how to use it. I look for the least computer literate person. He or she becomes my rubber dummy. If I can explain things so that person understands, I can consider my job complete.”

 It seems to me there are many times when God works like this. He brings us into what he is doing, not because he needs us, but because he wants us to see and understand what is happening. We become God’s rubber dummies. For example:

 I was at Lighthouse of Hope camp in Russia’s Central Black Soil Region as part of the discipleship process for a group of teenagers who had recently given their lives to Jesus Christ. In our first meeting together, I wanted to give some of them the opportunity to verbalize the commitment they had made.

 “Who wants to come up here and tell . . .” I hadn’t even completed the sentence before the figure jumped from the front row of seats and bounded onto the platform next to me. Not saying a word, she stood there looking at me with a knowing smile. I recognized her from photos of previous camps, but must have looked confused because she said, “Don’t you remember?”


I was still confused. Remember what? “The picnic table.” The picnic table! It came flooding back to me.

 Two years before this, while visiting the same camp, I had been called off a construction project to fill in for another speaker who had been delayed. Since that had been an evangelistic camp, I probably challenged the kids to talk to their counselors about what it meant to follow Christ. I had finished up, spent a few minutes talking to people around the campfire, then headed back to my room at the Center.

 Suddenly Irina, one of our interpreters, came running to me. “David, you have to come with me. Right now!” After a long and hard day, I was ready for bed, but had learned to trust Irina ‘s judgment. I followed her back toward the campground where she led me to a group of girls sitting around a picnic table.

 Irina looked at the girls, who all seemed to be studying their hands in their laps or the top of the table. “Tell him,” she demanded in the Russian way. Hesitantly, one by one, six teenage girls told me that they had just invited Jesus Christ into their lives.

 Wow! I didn’t quite know what to do. I asked them each to tell me about the experience, then sat with them for the next couple of hours, no longer concerned about getting to bed early. We talked about the decisions they had made, and what they meant in practical terms. I encouraged them. We prayed together.

 Jump ahead two years and I was back at the discipleship camp, looking at this young lady, Masha, and picturing her sitting at that picnic table. “You.” I said in English. Masha understood and nodded at me. And before I knew it, she had turned to the whole group and began telling them what happened to her and how she had grown in Christ in the two years between that picnic table in this platform. What an amazing start to a week of helping these new believers walk with their Savior.

 I was God’s rubber dummy! He certainly didn’t need me there, either when Masha came to know him or when she gave her testimony to the other campers. In both cases, he arranged the circumstances and actions to extend his kingdom and to bring glory to himself. He further arranged things to make sure that I would understand what he had done and how he had done it.

 I guess I don’t mind being a rubber dummy in circumstances like this. I’m also somewhat of a storyteller. And what happens when you combine a rubber dummy and a storyteller? Well. . . You get something like what you’ve just read.


“I feel useless!”

 As she explained, the rest of the team began to see Kathy’s frustration. She had been invited to Russia specifically to work with the wives of the Russian camp staff during this week at Transformation Christian Center. For several years she had led Bible studies for the women in her church in the U.S. At least one of the studies she had taught had been translated into Russian. Kathy had taken the initiative to find this study, purchase enough copies for the class, and have them shipped ahead and waiting at the Center. She had put in many hours reviewing notes, adjusting for the cross-cultural experience, and praying. She was ready and excited.

 Arriving at the camp, she discovered there was no class.

 So many teenagers had signed up for this session that facilities were overcrowded. To make room for the teens, the staff were asked to leave their families at home. Frustrated, but still a team player, Kathy found other things to do and had not expressed her feelings until asked this morning.


Going to the camp director, her team leader explained the situation. “What can we do?” Talking together, they realized there were several women in the adult rehab program who could benefit from such a study. They had never done this before, but this was an opportunity and worth a try.

 Kathy, herself, had mixed feelings. Expecting to work with a group of young but mature Christian women, she now had a ragtag group of women of various ages, education, and understanding. She couldn’t even be sure where these women were spiritually.

 “Lord,” she prayed, “What do you have in mind?” The answer didn’t come immediately.

 The group came together, meeting daily in a forest clearing at the edge of the campground. Although the words themselves never passed through the interpreter, Kathy and the women probably had the same thoughts. “Who is she?” “Who are they?”

 As they diligently worked their way into the study book, the women got to know one another and could sense some of the walls dropping. They opened up, beginning to ask questions based on the study, and then further afield about life in general. There was a rapport building

 By the end of her stay, Kathy had not been able to get more than halfway through the book. On the last day with what she now considered her women, she almost magically pulled out supplies she had brought from home and put on a semi-formal tea party. Then she told the women to keep the books they had been using and try to finish the study on their own.

 Shortly after arriving home, Kathy received a message about Angelina. Angelina. This somewhat large and imposing woman was currently in the drug and alcohol rehab program. Kathy didn’t know much beyond that about her background. At first meeting, there was something almost frightening about her, until she smiled shyly. As the study had progressed, Angelina had opened up more and more and thrown herself into the homework.

 Angelina sent word, through one of the missionaries, thanking Kathy for coming to Russia and helping her understand more about God and the Bible. She thanked her, especially, for giving the study book to keep. She had always had trouble reading, but went ahead and completed the entire Bible study. She was now reading and understanding the Bible.

 God was doing something. Even as she read the e-mail, Kathy continued the prayer she had begun in Russia, “Lord, what do you have in mind?” And two sentences jumped off the page:

 “Two Sundays ago during the church service, [Angelina] went forward to repent. Now she is looking forward to being baptized.” The missionary writing the e-mail continued, “I wanted you to know this, and to thank you for being instrumental in bringing [Angelina] to Christ!”

 Kathy now had a new prayer, “When the original plans for our Bible study didn't materialize, Lord, I wondered what you had in mind.  Thank you for Angelina. Thank you for showing me how you truly have everything under control!”

 How good to serve the God who does have everything under control, who does things well, and who not only uses us to expand His kingdom, but allows us to see and be encouraged by individual human results like Angelina.

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.

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; 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.

Holding the Ropes

The greatest missionary was almost stopped before he got started! Acts 9:23-24 tells the story of Saul who had just come to Christ and was sharing his new faith in 1st century Damascus. Knowing his enemies wanted to shut him up, his friends took him to the city wall one night, put him into a basket, and lowered him by rope to safety outside the city walls. From there he was able to make his way back to Jerusalem, then eventually on to Antioch, Asia, and Europe. We also know him as Paul the apostle.

 Paul’s friends are unknown to us. They most likely didn’t seek honor or publicity for their brave deed. As the years went by, though, they saw the value of holding the ropes for Paul. I’m sure God noticed!

 It’s a truth that missionaries cannot work alone. Yes, they might go out in teams, they might interact with national workers and churches, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

 They need people to figuratively hold the ropes for them so they can concentrate on going where God sends them and doing the work for which they have been called.

 As surely as God calls some to go, he calls others to support them prayerfully, financially, and in encouragement.

 I’m looking today for some people to hold the ropes.

 Beginning next Monday, Mandate’s four-person leadership team is leaving the U.S. for a two-week visit with our national ministry partners in Vietnam and Laos. We want to encourage our front-line workers. We want to personally see the results of their ministries. We want to come back with photos and stories to share so that we can encourage more people to join them in their works.

 We are going into spiritual battle. We have prepared ourselves as best we can. We have our tickets, our visas, accommodations booked, packed suitcases. Now we’re looking for people like you who will join together in praying with and for us as we go.

 PRAY for our travel. We’ll leave our individual homes in the U.S. on September 17 and arrive in Da Nang, Vietnam the next day. So PRAY for safety and comfort through our travels.

 We’ll spend days visiting ministry sites in Vietnam. So PRAY that we’ll have good communication with our hosts and Vietnamese people in general.

 I’m hoping to share my testimony with one specific communist official I’ve met before. So PRAY he will be receptive to me and, especially, the gospel.

 Lord willing, I’ll come back to this page next Friday (or when I have a safe and secure internet connection) with updated prayer requests for the second part of our trip – Laos, and the following week with news for our journey home.

 We can’t do this without the help of God’s people. That’s you.

 Will you join together to hold the ropes for Mandate?