So I'm currently reading "Revolution In World Missions", a book Cassie sent me as a birthday gift. The book is by K.P. Yahannan, the man who founded the Gospel for Asia missions organization whose main purpose is to reach the unreached: peoples who have never heard the Gospel. GFA works on getting national missionaries (that is, missionaries who are from the ethnic groups they wish to reach) sponsored and stuff. In the first couple chapters, he's talking about his journey to starting Gospel for Asia.
To relate the entirety of his story would take way too much space, so I'll skim. I totally suggest you get this book- already, I'm not completely done with it- and read it for yourself. It's an inspiring book merely because of its view of our own churches. He speaks about the contrast between American affluence and Indian poverty: we spend more on a single meal than a whole Indian village would spend in a day! During the start-up of GFA, Yahannan speaks of how he went to find sponsors for these national missionaries. He found it surprisingly difficult. Amidst the prosperity we Americans enjoy, as well as our freedom, we were too caught up in our own lives to help spread the Gospel.
It's a sad indictment.
He came to America to study, and this was his first impression about churches in the United States:
"Religion, I discovered, is a multi-billion dollar business in the United States. Entering churches, I was astonished at the carpeting, furnishings, air-conditioning, and ornamentation. Many churches have gymnasiums and fellowships that cater to a busy schedule of activities having little or nothing to do with Christ. The orchestras, choirs, "special" music- and sometimes even the preaching- seemed to me more like entertainment than worship."
Now stop. Think about that a minute.
I would like to address the problem he highlighted: that of Christians, rather than wishing to serve, wishing to be entertained.
Yahannan is right: American churches all too often wish not to be lights to the unsaved world, but rather to sit in front of their lighted television screens and naively pretend the problem doesn't exist. We go to church to be ministered to, but never minister in our turn. We claim it isn't our job, that someone else is better capable to do it.
Let me present you with a hard truth: God does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called.
If He calls you, there is a reason. He wants you, you and no one else, to accomplish that task for Him. There is no one else on the globe who can do that job- at least, not like you would, and God obviously wants your touch if He called you.
We hide behind our pastors, claiming that, since they are the shepherds, they should lead. But what excuse is that? God has empowered each of us. We have a wonderful book called the Bible. The average American household has at least five of these books- literally, God's words to men. No longer are we in the dark ages where we are bound solely to preachers and priests to give us spiritual direction. We each have the handbook in our houses, if not in our hands! Why are we not using it?
When our excuses fail, we literally turn our backs and go on to other things. Outwardly, we appear to be fine and dandy. We deliberately seek out things that appear Christian. We go to Christian bookstores, we watch Christian movies, we listen to Christian music. But amidst trying to be a Christian, we forget to be Christ-followers.
Christ did not call us to mosey through life, finding "Christian" things to do. He called us to live for Him. He called us to show, in every part of our lives, who we followed, and why it was worth it. Americans are so buffered from the facts of life and death that most of the world grapples with every day. We shelter ourselves behind our entertainment: our ball games and our money, our church pot-luck suppers and our Christian friends who take us out to dinner as we prattle on, and then we do nothing for those who are living and dying, both with and without Christ.
Frankly put, American Christians have begun to see themselves as a completely different entity as the rest of the body of Christ.
We are The Chosen. We belong to a "Christian nation". We are privileged. If we spare a thought for our brothers and sisters who are dying, it is to empathize with them that they do not live here, where they may be free. We perhaps pray for them, but it never crosses our minds to do more. While we spend thousands of dollars on fast food and movies, ball games and races, holiday presents and new gadgets, there is a battle for souls going on all around the world.
And we sit by, and we do nothing. We disregard it as if thousands of people are not every moment passing into eternity. How many of them are saved? How many are lost? How many have been deceived, and will spend an eternity being tormented in a place created by a God who cannot let them into Heaven because he is just and he is righteous?
And at least some of those are dying and going to hell because we, in our lazy, arrogant selfishness, cannot get off our bottoms and go preach the Gospel. We can't even open our checkbooks and our credit card accounts and give. We're not willing to suffer the "deprivations" we might have to suffer through. We let ourselves sink farther and farther into the fog of American-ism, let ourselves wear the blinkers of Entertainment, and drink the kool-aide of Somebody Else's Problem, all to forget that out there, people are dying.
And here we sit. And do nothing. While others die and pay the price for our own laziness.
Proverbs 3 is perhaps best known for these verses:
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."
Reading this chapter today, I noticed the verses that come after verse 6.
"Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones."
Other than the rather amazing note that yes, the ancients did know about bone marrow, if not all the health ramifications, I found these two verses interesting.
The first 4 verses of Proverbs 3 are talking about listening to God- his commandments, his wisdom. Verse 2 tells us that there are benefits to doing this. Verse 3 and 4 tell us we should make mercy and truth our constant companions, and we will find favor with God.
Verses 5 and 6 are two of the most well-known verses in Proverbs. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, lean not unto thine own understanding. We are supposed to trust God with everything we have. Our heart is the most intimate thing we have- what we think with, where all those crazy ideas we humans are prone to come from. If we yield the entirety of that to God, then we've truly given him everything we own, with no reservations, no fine-print.
Further, we are not supposed to lean, or rely, on our own understanding or knowledge. We shouldn't get to thinking we're so big and great that we forget who really matters- God, and his wisdom, his knowledge, his understanding. Because, let's face it. God knows way more than we, in our limited life's experience, could ever begin to fathom.
Verse 6 tells us to acknowledge him in all our ways. This goes along with the first part of verse 5. We are supposed to trust God with our whole hearts- which of course means we'll also be trusting him with our ways- how we walk, how we appear to the world. To acknowledge God means we are supposed to live like he would want to us to. That worldly music has no place in our lives. Ditto for movies, books, etc. etc. that don't please him. Of course, that doesn't mean that we should never read anything but the Bible. I might very well die, because there is a lot of knowledge that one can't get out of the Bible. But people should be able to note a difference between us and the world.
Verse 6 continues and wraps up by telling us that, if we yield our entire being to God, if we trust him and rely on his judgment and understanding, he will direct our paths. And God will never lead you astray. He knows so much more than we can imagine, that it is impossible that he could lead us off the path we need to walk.
Verse 7 starts out by telling us to not be wise in our own eyes. This goes back to verse 5's "lean not unto thine own understanding." When we're trusting in what we know (or what we think we know), then we're being wise in our own eyes. We think we know how we should walk, what our life should look like. This verse continues and tells us to fear the Lord, and to depart from evil. These two go together. If we're fearing the Lord- which means having reverence for him, respecting him, and following him- then we will not do evil.
We can see the fruits of this style of living and the consequences for not living like this in different Bible stories.
Remember Ruth? Ruth was a Moabitess, an hereditary enemy of Israel. Yet she married an Israelite when his family moved to Moab because of a famine in his homeland (this is an excellent example of something bad that reaped to something good). When Naomi, her mother-in-law, was heading back to Israel in the wake of her family's death, Ruth and Orpah, her sister-in-law, were going to go with her. When Naomi urged them to go back to their father's homes, Orpah instantly left. However, Ruth wouldn't leave Naomi. She entreated Naomi to let Ruth come with her. I believe all of us know how the story ends- Ruth goes to Israel, meets a nice man, settles down, and ends up being in the line of Jesus.
Ruth's is a story of a young woman who completely gave herself to God. She was leaving everything she knew- her family, her homeland, her gods, her culture, her food, her clothes...everything that was familiar...to follow God. As we know, it came out to good. And I imagine she was glad she did follow!
However, we have another woman who also came to live in Israel, but didn't do half as well. She was Jezebel, queen of Israel. Jezebel was chosen as the wife for the King of Israel, Ahab. She also left everything she knew...but she handled it in a much different way from her earlier counterpart. Where Ruth was thankful and compliant, Jezebel was spoiled and bratty. She got her husband under her thumb and started making rules. Where she could have done great things for God, instead she brought her own foreign gods into Israel, ruining the culture in that country, bringing a famine down upon the land, and eventually dying in a gruesome way and having her body eaten by dogs.
All of this came about because she didn't give herself to God and follow him. She didn't trust the Lord with all her heart, nor did she depart from evil or acknowledge him.
Proverbs 3:5-8 give us a blueprint for a life surrendered to God- and one that is joyful and happy- not to mention more pleasant!
"My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever. But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works." Psalm 73: 26, 28
Today we found out that a lady that goes to the church that we went to in Michigan, has Breast Cancer. It's very sad. She used to take us to Chuckey Cheeses every year for christmas, and we always sang the "old lady who swallowed the fly" song on the way there. She is a very nice person. Will you all please pray for her? Her name is Jan.
Our parents said that we might go visit her sometime next month, please pray that we will be able to, it would be very nice to see everyone there and to comfort Jan as she goes through this hard time.
Also please pray for Emily who is fighting Leukaemia. (click HERE to see her blog.)