What would it look like if we really started being a
community to each other? If we started loving one another like Col. 3:12-14
says to love each other:
“Put on then, as
God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility,
meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint
against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you
also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything
together in perfect harmony” (Col. 3:12-14).
What if we were intentional with our time and made time for one another? Like
we actually gathered together and did not care if everything was perfect. What
if we actually wanted to sit together and fellowship together and talk about
the things of God together.
I know many of us have good intentions, but the world and
appearances get in the way.
I want us to think about this for just a second. One
day, this is all will be over, and we will stand before THE HOLY God of the
universe, and we are going to give an account to Him for what we did on this
I don’t want my pride to block me from doing what God wants
me to do. I oftentimes think about this—God looking at me and asking, “Why
did you not do what I placed in your heart for you to do? Why did you
ignore My mandate to you?”
Let me as you another question. If you knew, for a fact, that you were going to meet with God this week in person, how would you order your steps this week? Would you care about things you are currently caring about? Would you engage in the conversations you normally engage in? And if you answered you’d live differently this week, my next question is what is stopping you from living like you’re going to meet with God this week? Let’s start living with Holy Spirit intentions. Let’s talk like Jesus is coming this week, because He just might.
The Lord has been very clear as to how He wants Christians to walk, yet we struggle to make this a priority. The world has such a pull on our hearts, and I firmly believe that one day we will wish we had been more intentional with our time, friendships and our mission.
I think that if we started taking the Word of God seriously
and we started actually seeing Jesus as He actually is, the stuff of this world
would not be as attractive and fulfilling. We’d long to know and see and
be with Jesus! And as a result of being with Jesus we’d love each other so much
I think that if we would follow this text we’d have a much richer life:
“Let the word of
Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom,
singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts
to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the
Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:16-17).
What can you do with a general,
When he stops being a general?
Oh, what can you do with a general who retires?
Nobody thinks of assigning him
When they stop wining and dining him…
Irving Berlin’s song What
Can You Do with a General, When They Stop Being a General was made famous
in the movie White Christmas. The
main characters of the film were representative of a nation trying to find
their new normal in a post-World War II era.
Soldiers came home and had to adjust back to their everyday
routine, mentally needing to switch from soldier to citizen. The women, having
to become, in essence, single mothers and breadwinners, had to adjust back to
the homemaker life.
Everyone made their way back to the normal they had before
the war, only to find the world vastly different post-war.
For men and women of authority in the armed forces during
that time, the transition from military honor, power and respect would have
been a shocking reality check as they faded into a sea of mediocrity and the
ordinary. Their hearts were weighted with unseen medals and hard-earned
victories. But their chests were bare. These medals don’t match a regular starched
What can you do
with a general, when they stop being a general?
This song always rings true in my ear, for I have seen a
similar transition for soldiers of sorts who must return to their old normal,
having found it, too, has changed.
From Moon to Mueller, from Livingstone to Elliott,
missionaries have long been praised for their willing hearts and lives of
sacrifice. Much like World War II soldiers, when they buy their ticket and
board, everyone’s there to cheer them on and wave goodbye. When they are in the
field, everyone’s writing letters and sending love and prayers.
When they come back on furlough, everyone’s bringing them
meals and treating them to fine experiences. When they head back to their
mission field after furlough, everyone’s there to cheer them on and wave
But what happens when that missionary is called back to the
U.S.A.? What can you do with a missionary, when they stop being a missionary?
They fill his chest
with medals while he’s across the foam,
And they spread the
crimson carpet when he comes marching home,
The next day someone
hollers when he comes into view,
“Here comes the
(missionary)” and they all say “(Missionary) who?”
They’re delighted that
But they can’t recall
The transition is hard. There’s so much change.
As a missionary kid, I saw this change affect my family as
we moved back to the States after serving in Central Asia for five and a half
years. My parents, though struggling themselves, managed to help us five kids
adjust. All seven of us could tell you a different story of how hard the move
Everyone would hug our necks and say, “Welcome home!” This
always confused me. Having spent the majority of my life in Asia, that had
become my home. This country of my birth was not my home, and held much culture
shock for me. Thousands of “Why” questions danced and drudged in my 10-year-old
Why are there electric hand dryers in the bathrooms here?
Why does everyone have a cell phone? Should I have one?
Why do the girls dress and talk so different from me? How
can I silence their stares?
Why don’t we take our shoes off at the church doorway
Why is everyone in such a hurry?
I’ve found that we were blessed to be a part of a church
that loved us and provided for us fully during our move from Asia to McAlester,
Oklahoma. Though I had many questions, they were often allowed to be asked and
were answered gracefully. Though I had some fear, my church and home were safe
places to be.
Not all churches know what to do with missionaries when they
come “home” for good. I would like to offer two things congregations should not
do and two things congregations can do when attempting to care for the
missionaries who have been called back to the States.
Congregations should not…
…pretend things are
“back to normal.” It would have been inappropriate to expect a World War II
soldier to return from battle and act like they weren’t changed, or that they could
simply “return to normal.”
The same is true for a missionary. Most missionaries have
experienced great loss, vast change and life-altering perspective shifts. Don’t
expect them to return to the States the same person as when they left.
…be disappointed in
them. They may not have stayed as long overseas as they had hoped. They may
have been offered an early retirement. They may have had a sick family member
for whom they had to return. Don’t be disappointed in them or feel they have
disobeyed God by coming back from the mission field.
…provide for their
physical needs… and wants. From housing to employment, from food to a (more
than likely needed) vacation. Don’t wait for them to ask for help. Simply ask
yourself, “What would I want or need if I were in their shoes?”
them get introduced to their new home! Take them to see the sights, try the
tastiest restaurants and visit the popular hang-outs. Help them fall in love
with where God has placed them. If they lived in your city before moving
overseas initially, then re-introduce them to the old places and introduce the
Above all, love them fiercely, utilize them in your church
and empower them to press on. Missionaries who have returned to the States
long-term are assets to the American church. What can you do with a missionary
when they stop being a missionary? The ends of the earth are the limit.
“Dr. Livingstone, I presume.”
With these famous words, a Scottish
physician and missionary who lived a remarkable life became one of the most
widely recognized people of his day—and one of the most remembered in ours.
In fact, David Livingstone is one
of the best known missionaries (and explorers) of all time, and today (May 1)
marks the anniversary of his death. (To read more about Livingstone, check out this
blog post by
Pastor Wade Burleson).
From Dr. Livingstone on down to
today, medical missionaries have enjoyed a platform like almost no other kind
of missionary. Where, besides in the medical field, can missionaries so easily
cross cultural lines? Where besides the medical field, can they go and command,
not only immediate respect, but also the attention span of those with whom they
want to share Christ? In what field besides medicine can you more often find
people in a vulnerable state and considering the weightier matters of life than
in health and medicine?
Truly medical missions is a field
that has a storied past and even brighter future. That’s why I am excited that
this summer, anyone connected to the medical field has an excellent opportunity
to explore what God may have in store for them in the growing field of medical
missions. To be specific, the International Mission Board’s MedAdvance
Conference is coming to Oklahoma City, Quail Springs, July 18-20.
For those unfamiliar, MedAdvance is an event that the IMB
conducts yearly to equip medical professionals with evangelism strategy for
mission work. Dr. Rebekah Naylor, a decorated surgeon and internationally-recognized
IMB missionary, is the physician in charge of organizing the conference. Her life
story, like Livingstone’s, is worthy of study and
emulating. More than that, her life shows the power of Christ displayed through
The conference Dr. Naylor has assembled will feature
different training aspects like “a roadmap to becoming a physician on mission.”
A manual from last year’s conference listed the steps, which include: Discern
first steps; prepare spiritually; find mentors; prepare to make disciples;
build your resume; portfolio and networks; explore possibilities and needs;
find a job; connect with believers on mission and, finally, do life and work on
mission among the unreached. For more information on the MedAdvance Conference,
or to register, visit https://qsbc.org/medadvance.
With a stethoscope and a copy of the Scriptures in hand,
along with a willing heart, God can do great things through these individuals.
So if you or someone you know is now or will be in the medical field, tell them
about this event. Let’s not just presume God will raise up another Dr.
Livingstone. Instead, let’s pray that God will raise up more medical
missionaries to be His witnesses, taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth
As we recently celebrated Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, we reconize that many challenges continue in the battle against abortion continue, such as what we saw in New York’s shocking new law that allows late-term abortions.
Yet we have much for which we can be grateful. The latest CDC and Guttmacher Institute surveys show a significant drop in the number of abortions performed in the United States.
As of 2014, which is the latest year that statistics have been reported, the number of abortions nationwide was at 926,000. That is the lowest national rate since abortion was legalized in 1973 by the infamous Roe v. Wade decision. Still, the numbers are striking as they represent approximately 14.6 abortions for every 1,000 women aged 15-44.
We cannot lose sight, though, of the victories that have been won since those numbers were highest in 1990 with 1.6 million abortions nationally representing 29.3 abortions per 1,000 women. Even considering that these numbers tend to be skewed to the low side because there is no mandatory reporting requirement in the U.S., the drop in the rate as reported is real.
Much of the success for the pro-life movement can be attributed to the number of state regulations which have been enacted in recent years. As of 2015, Guttmacher reported that states had approved 231 abortion regulations over the period from 2011-2014.
Much of this legislation dealt with late-term abortion bans, informed consent laws and safety regulations for clinics. Oklahoma has passed some of the most pro-life legislation in the country including a 72-hour waiting period with specific requirements regarding what information the attending physician must make available to women seeking an abortion.
So, to what may we attribute these gradual successes? Underneath the statistics lie subtle changes occurring in the hearts and minds of those who elect people to office. Technology has certainly played a part due to the ready access to information and even opinions expressed through social media.
Pro-life activists are no longer considered fringe elements of society but are given a greater platform to express and defend their positions via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Even with the liberal bias these social media platforms exhibit, the pro-life message is getting out more today than any other time in history.
People are being encouraged to choose life as directed in Deut. 30:19, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, love the LORD your God, obey Him, and remain faithful to Him.”
In addition to social media, one of the greatest uses of technology has been the introduction of the ultrasound prominently used by physicians and made available through pregnancy centers across the country. First-time mothers who see the image of a living baby moving and even doing such ordinary things as sucking their thumbs or blinking their eyes has a profound effect upon their decision to end that child’s life. It is no longer a valid argument that a fetus is just a “blob of tissue.”
No, a fetus is a human being made in the very image of God as described in Gen. 1:27, “So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.”
Another change has occurred in the competition Planned Parenthood now faces from pro-life crisis pregnancy centers such as Hope Pregnancy Centers in Oklahoma. Even though the number of abortion clinics has increased in Oklahoma, Planned Parenthood no longer has a monopoly on the information provided to women experiencing a crisis pregnancy.
Thanks to creative marketing through the website thinkimpregnant.org, many women are encouraged that there are resources available for them and opt to deliver their babies and either keep them or place them for adoption.
Yes, we have much to celebrate, but the battle is not won. As we face the year ahead, let us consider what our part might be in this fight. Each of us can become informed regarding legislation surrounding this issue and vote our consciences.
We can proudly profess our pro-life beliefs to our family and friends and not shrink away from the truths of scripture. We can denounce the efforts by Planned Parenthood to deceive through their ad campaigns designed to soothe young women into believing that it’s all about their “right to choose.”
And, until this battle is won, we can attend pro-life events like Rose Day which is held at the Oklahoma State Capital each year on the first Wednesday in February. These efforts truly do make a difference and bring glory to Christ as we celebrate life by standing for the most defenseless among us… the unborn.
With a firm grip on His sovereign knitting needles, the Almighty transposed Himself into a young woman’s womb. She was a virgin, untouched by a man, and yet, somehow became the temple of the Greatest Love of all. He created Himself inside the body of the woman He created. A.W. Tozer put this profound happening this way, “Was there anything lovelier than to be the Creator of His own mother, to have made the very body that gave Him protection and bore Him at last into the world?”
God, with every stitch and loop, having already created His precious mother’s womb years earlier, created Himself there in that blessed space. God of all area and time contained to the shape of a small baby. Can you imagine the baby’s kicks, movements Mary must have felt like any other mother? Except, this baby had already experienced and, even more, created the world that awaited Him outside the womb.
Psalm 139:13 says, “For it was You that created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” The verse has a whole new weight when thoughts of the unborn Christ Child are infused in it. Perhaps God spoke as He knitted, “For it was I who created My inward parts; I knitted myself together in My mother’s womb.” At the finished work, was it a smile or a tear that came upon the Father’s face?
God knew, once He created the tiny body, that Mary would then give birth to Him, and the weight of human life would fall on the child’s small shoulders. He would grow to be a young man when his shoulders would hold the weight of wise instruction in the temple. Then He would develop into a mature man when His shoulders would hold the weight of the world’s sins.
Even as God created Himself as Christ in a young woman’s womb, just as delicately and just as lovingly does He form every unborn child. He breathes life into the quickly developing lungs. He pumps the heartbeat to a steady pace to sustain the rest of the delicate figure.
The Lord God loves babies.
Did you know that? He smiles at their joy. He weeps at their neglect. He comforts their already sinful hearts. He binds their wounds with compassion. He sees every born and not yet born baby, and He loves them.
At Christmas time, it can be easy to picture this God that loves babies. It can be easy to picture Mary holding the baby Savior as we pass countless nativities in the store and at church. I can vividly remember the last time the Lord allowed me to cradle and love on a little baby.
One Friday afternoon as I volunteered at the hospital near my house, a pediatrics intensive care unit nurse asked me to come hold and feed a 7-month-old baby. We’ll call him John. John had been abused. His little hands and feet were bandaged, concealing the cruel burns forced on his helpless body. Little John, even at 7 months old, had little trust for people, having only felt pain and fear in the arms of an adult. He fought sleep. He fought food. He fought me.
I began singing to John. I sang every hymn and worship song I could think of, and before long, his small body began to relax, and his fearful shaking subsided. His dark brown eyes finally had the courage to meet mine as he grasped the milk bottle in my hand. As he drank, I could see tears build in his eyes. “What have you seen, my little brother?” I thought to myself. “Be still and feel the presence of God fall on you, little one, for you are not invisible, and you are valuable.”
These words leapt from my heart and slipped from my lips to John’s tiny ears. As I whispered them, I mourned the injustice of it all. Why should one so innocent suffer so greatly? How could God allow the precious child in my arms to bear so much of the world? Could these be the very things Mary prayed in her heart?
As she cradled the tiny Savior, did she mourn the injustice of it all? Why should Christ, so perfect, suffer for the sins of the world?
Can you picture Mary in your church’s nativity, wrapping the Christ Child in her arms? Or have you missed it? Many have already been hurtled into the “full steam ahead” mentality, with families, duties, lists and tasks in tow. I feel compelled to encourage you to love the babies in your life. Here are three ways you can reflect God’s compassion to the children around you:
- Volunteer. Your holiday time is valuable, but perhaps one Saturday afternoon you could give up the time you would have spent watching a movie or go shopping to volunteer somewhere. Hospitals, crisis pregnancy centers and your church’s nursery are teeming every week with parents and babies in need of Christ’s compassion. Would you consider calling one of those places to see how you could give of your valuable time? You could ask your church staff if there is a single parent of whom you could babysit.
- Give. Maybe you’re too busy to organize a crisis pregnancy center’s closet or to hold a baby for an hour or two at a hospital near you. That’s okay! Do you have a penny under the seat of your car or a $20 bill left over from your Christmas present fund? Reach out to places like the Hope Pregnancy Center, Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree, Samaritan’s Purse and your church’s nursery to provide the donation you’re able to offer!
- Sacrifice. Spend time with the babies in your life. Invest in their futures and in their walk with the Lord. Does your neighbor have a baby? Do you have your own baby? Do you have little ones in your extended or mediate family? Is one of your friends pregnant? When was the last time you told them that they’re loved? Sacrifice whatever it takes to let the babies in your life know they are valuable. Sacrifice your pride, your time, your attention, your arms, and your words.
This December, consider the reality that you will never again live out the 2018 Christmas season. This is your chance to make this year different. What will you do this holiday to show the love of Christ to the precious babies around you? For it was only a couple thousand years ago that God Himself unfurled the yarn of heaven to knit together the transposed Savior… Emmanuel, God with us.
Recently, in Chiang Rai, located in northern Thailand, 12 boys and a soccer coach were trapped by monsoon rains that flooded the Tham Luang cave system they were exploring during a team excursion. The Thai soccer team was eventually discovered nine days after becoming trapped.
Due to the complexity of the cave system, weather patterns and the inexperience of the team members, the rescue was going to be very difficult. The situation this soccer team experienced caught the attention of people all around the world.
What does the entrapment of this Thai soccer team teach us about the value of human life? I noticed that all the news coverage was focused on the urgent need to get these boys and their coach out of the cave as soon as possible. It did not seem to matter what the financial cost might be for equipment and personnel. The international community seemed determined to do whatever it took to save these 13 lives. It was clear the international community believed these 13 lives had a tremendous value and were willing to do whatever it took to rescue them.
So are we as followers of Christ willing to do the same? The Bible is very clear on the value of life from conception to natural death. I am thankful to say that, in the U.S., there are millions of dollars spent each year by Christians to serve women in crisis. In addition to this, there are churches and ministries all around the U.S. sharing Christ and offering help and healing to women and families in need. This is good news! I believe a direct result of the financial and spiritual investment of people in the U.S. has translated into thousands of women healed, people coming to Christ and lives saved.
As great as the need is here in the U.S., the need is multiplied further outside the country. Globally, 98 percent of all abortions take place outside the U.S. and Canada. The majority of life-affirming ministry, however, is taking place here in North America. This disproportion has left the global church unequipped and uninformed in this crucial area of Christian doctrine and life. In Asia, each year there are more than 35.8 million abortions, 10 million of these happening in China alone. This is compared to the 1.2 million abortions in the U.S. and Canada.
The global church has been and continues to advance around the world. The global church through numerous ministries is being trained and equipped in many areas. One of the greatest areas of need in training is in life-affirming ministry. This is not the only type of ministry that the church is engaged in, but it is a vital one and cannot be neglected.
Our desire is to see every church in the world mobilized to share Christ through life-affirming ministry. Local churches are the best instrument for sharing the Gospel and meeting the needs of the hurting. Jesus, during His short time on earth, left us an example. He spent hours proclaiming the coming Kingdom, discipling His followers, and healing the hurting.
Every church in the world is surrounded by lost and hurting people. Where there is a need for healing, there is also an opportunity. A church that is trained and has a vision for sharing Christ with the hurting is prepared to take advantage of the opportunity that already exists in their community.
Affirming life as Christians is not just about recognizing the value of these 13 people in Thailand but about recognizing and fighting for life at every stage and in every venue from conception to natural death. Please join me in praying for the global church to rise up and meet the needs of the hurting in their communities with the Gospel of Jesus.