Grab your FREE eBook and exclusive content for Subscribers only:

Subscribe

FREE eBook:

Subscribe

FREE updates delivered to your inbox

Subscribe

Don't Miss A Post!

Subscribe

“The Gospel Came Here”

 

 

 

What if, instead of building the biggest house we could build, we made the greatest sacrifice we could?

What if, instead of leaving our children bank accounts and gadgets, we left them legacy?

And what if… what if we really did live on the edge, poured ourselves out, pushed the limit?

What if, 50 years from now, someone said that because of us, “The gospel came here.”

{Email subscribers click over to watch the video. 15 minutes well invested.}

Recommended Reading: A missionary story to read around the dinner table. Peace Child: An Unforgettable Story of Primitive Jungle Treachery in the 20th Century

Portions

 

 

 

Outside my window a pair of birds peck the ground in search of food. It’s 2pm. Maybe it’s the way they are unhurried, or the search itself that reminds me of those people: those who are quietly~ brutally~ being exterminated.

The email I received days ago haunts me.

These people imprisoned for their faith, prisoners of conscience, are simply disappearing. Their former “home,” the ghastly, dreaded Camp 22, is a prison the geographical size of Los Angeles… but it’s becoming a ghost town. The rapid depopulation speaks of horrors beyond imagination.

It’s brothers and sisters who are being subjected to these atrocities. 

On the basis of lengthy and detailed testimony from former camp guards Ahn Myong-chol and Kwon Hyuk, are revelations of the DPRK’s inhumanity and include claims of human vivisection and chemical and biological weapon experiments on prisoners.

They include the murdering of whole families in gas chambers.

Kwon, the former chief of management at North Korea’s Camp 22 and former military attaché at the North Korean embassy in Beijing, said, ”I watched a whole family being tested on suffocating gas and dying in the gas chamber: parents, one son and a daughter. The parents were vomiting and dying, but until the very last moment they tried to save the kids by doing mouth-to-mouth breathing. For the first time it hit me that even prisoners are capable of powerful human affection.”

What do we do when brothers and sisters suffer? 

Do we push away from the table, step out into the cold, reach out a hand, throw a life-line, do something?

Or do we flip channels and forget about it?

And I’m sitting there with a sick child in my lap, watching birds hunt food when the absurdity of it all hits me.

Maybe it’s time we got off Facebook and got on our knees.

Maybe it’s time to quit being a consumer and start being a contributor.

And maybe instead of Candy Crush it’s time for our hearts to be crushed… for someone without a voice…without a choice…without a hope.

Is that really asking too much?

 

“One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.”

~John Piper

For a people chosen of God, blessed beyond measure, our Holy and Gracious Master calls us to fast, to withhold ourselves from a self-indulgent life:

 

“Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
“Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”

Isaiah 58:6-7

 

After dinner I reach for the ipad.

Then I think twice. It’s time to fast. I set Pinterest aside and pick up prayer for Camp 22 and men and women who don’t have a choice. I pray for my children, the world’s children, the next generation. I pray for courage and faith and truth and character. I pray for light to invade the darkness and overcome it.

In this turning, spinning world where our days are limited and our influence profound, prayer seems the better choice.

Today, will you set aside 10 minutes to pray for North Korea?  Here are some resources to learn more. But beware, the content is disturbing and is not suitable for children:

 

ASSIST News: Huge Massacre in North Korea’s Killing Fields

60 Minutes Documentary on Camp 14

Prayer Guide for North Korea {Pre-Kim Jong Un but still good}

 

Just 10 minutes today? Every day?

 

When you need a Savior with Skin On

redemption on subway

 

 

redemption on subway

 

 

It’s raining when I leave. I say an early morning goodbye to the kids and the hubs and the house to attend first day of  University. For the second time.

Me, pushing 40.

The subway is crowded and my pant legs are muddy and I stand scrunched in a corner next to a man who uses my head as a prop for his morning newspaper.

Somewhere near the Dongmen Bridge it happens. A man standing in car #105513 passes out. I see the crowd move like a tidal wave away from him. Bodies circle around him where he lays collapsed. From my corner spot, I see his legs protruding from the circle of bystanders.

Everyone seems frozen. Unsure? Uncaring? I wonder if the man is traveling alone? Is there anyone here who can help him?

No one steps forward. No one stretches out a hand.

Just as suddenly as his collapse, the man scrambles to his feet and white-knuckle grips the overhead handle bar. A few standing close start to snicker, undoubtedly relieved the ordeal is over. Someone has the sense to give up their seat. He stumbles to sit, sinks back and leans his head against the side of the car.

He’s sitting on the same side I’m on, about 15 feet away and I watch him. He’s young, maybe 25? Then he groans and closes his eyes. We are all riveted.

When he starts to slide down on top of the gal beside him, I know he’s passed out again. She reaches out and tries to push him off but she can’t. She’s holding him up, looking wild at the passengers around her. She’s panicked and desperate and her eyes plead for someone to help.

Not a soul budges. Everyone stands and stares and doesn’t move a muscle.

The man needs medical attention and why doesn’t someone near him make a phone call? Push the emergency button? Yell for medical assistance? Something? I’m just a foreigner, an outsider. I’m no one’s savior.

But I can’t wait any longer. I hoist my bag and push my way through 15 feet of people. I grab him with both hands and gently right his unconscious body. “This man needs medical attention. Where is the emergency button on this subway?”

No one knows. Everyone seems relieved that someone has stepped forward. Like I know what I’m doing. I don’t.

I ask a woman nearby to contact the subway’s security. “I don’t know how to call them,” she tells me.

Why won’t somebody do something?

The man is still out and he’s lost control of his bladder. Urine drips down the seat, puddles the floor. Another stop comes and goes and we’re still trying to get help.

The young man briefly comes to and tries to sit up. “It’s okay,” I tell him. My hands are on his shoulders. He blacks out again.

Where is that emergency button? I keep asking. I finally find the button and press it.

Nothing happens.

I’ve been elected in charge so I’m making the executive decision: “When we stop, someone needs to get off and alert security that this passenger needs medical attention,” I tell the passengers. I’m staying with him. At the next stop, a woman jumps off and starts yelling for security. The train shuts the doors and leaves without her… and without help.

The young man’s face is beaded with sweat. He opens his eyes and looks at me. There is green matter rolled in the corner of his left eye. “We’re going to help you,” I reassure him. My hands still hold him tight. I’m straddling urine.

His body relaxes. “Thank you,” he whispers.

Security is standing on the platform at the next stop. We are able to get the young man off the subway and to the medical station. I see him to safety and continue on to my stop.

It’s still raining when I exit the subway station, the world above oblivious to the cares of a single soul struggling in the bowels below. I dodge puddles and on-coming traffic as I walk to the University. I can’t help but wonder it: “What if it had been me on that subway? Would anyone have come to my aid?”

I’m pretty sure of the answer.

And there comes a time in a person’s life when she senses her own deep helplessness, her raw need, her vulnerability, her sheer isolation. Past our exteriors and our busyness, our smiles and successes and accomplishments, deep in the bowels of the soul, we know we’re depraved deep and broken to boot. And no one is capable of reaching us. No one can bridge the gap. No one can put us back together.

I groan guteral with David, “Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul. Psalm 142:4

Surely we all are that young man on the subway.

But there’s something else. There’s another whisper flooding in, giving hope, speaking truth. God’s voice speaks as One who takes notice of man. “I looked, but there was no one to help, and I was amazed that no one assisted; so My arm accomplished victory for Me…My own arm brought salvation.” Isaiah 63:5

And it’s the good news we can cling to, that when there was no one to step in and rescue, God Himself donned flesh and came down to dwell among men. God ate with sinners and He spit in dirt and He asked, “Do you believe?” And He said to the broken, “Your sins are forgiven you.”

The profane is transformed by the Sacred, the broken redeemed by a Lamb, the dead given new life.

We have a Savior.

It’s just that in the midst of the mud and the mess and the mundane, we need reminders.  On that muddy walk to University I notice the bottom of my bag smells of urine.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

At the University, I duck into the bathroom to wash my hands. Glancing in the mirror, I’m surprised to see the cross prominently hanging around my neck. I had forgotten I was wearing it. The gold shines beautiful there against the black backdrop of my top.

The cross. God’s message to us, His assurance that everything really is okay.

The cross! I pray the young man and train passengers saw the cross today, dangling from the neck of someone who said, “I’ll help you.”

The cross speaks truth when we’re desperate lost and need to know there’s a way.

The cross is the daily reminder when we’re buried in the daily to-dos.

The cross says when we were without hope in this world … Jesus came.

When we were aliens and strangers … Jesus came.

When we were separated, isolated, excluded from citizenship … Jesus came.

When we were dead in our transgressions and sins … Jesus came.

He hoisted the cross and He bridged the gap and went the distance and He reached out and He rescued the needy. With complete competency and wild devotion He said, “I will help you.”

There in the mirror, I look at the cross against the backdrop of black. In my weakness and inability and failure, smelling of urine and mud, I hear its message afresh: “Don’t be afraid, you little Jacob. I will help you.”

It’s the hope of the redeemed that changes her life. It’s the  truth that propels her onto the streets, into the classroom, onto the subways. The cross changes everything.

We’re redeemed.

 

Living Like New

july bracelet2

 

 

 

 

On the first day of a new month, I wake up to an old used up paper roll in the bathroom.

Empty.

I consider making a public announcement, complete with bells and whistles only a mama can manufacture: Empty toilet paper rolls require use of the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do to you. Please.

The drip-dry method really isn’t much appreciated.  Especially by yo mama.

 

And how many times have I wondered how something that’s supposed to be new can quickly become so washed up? A new day can start off on the wrong foot the moment it slips from the sheets. 

All it takes is an empty roll, a comment muttered under the breath, a misplaced bag, and all our hopes for new… different… go out the window. We’re in the same old rut of mediocrity.

We’ve all lived it: A new month can be marred before the sun sets on the very first day.

A new job, a new home, a new church, new shoes. How quickly the new wears off and becomes pot-marked by life.

What we really need is fresh faith in the Ancient of Days.

 

“And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”

Revelation 21:5

 

“Behold.” Look!  Don’t miss this!    God is making all things news.

These words are faithful and true. Our pot-marked, washed up, empty and *old* is okay.

Just look for how He is making new.

And on that first day of a new month, we go to our new apartment and meet new neighbors and I sign up to pay new bills. We’re sitting in the {new} management office when Sunshine girl comes to whisper in my ear, “Mama, does Miss Sally know God?”

Miss Sally is sitting beside me, a local gal with a big smile and a ponytail. “I don’t know,” I say, a rush filling me. “Let’s ask her!”

It’s amazing how the promise of God making something new can compel a person. 

And I ask Miss Sally if she believes in Jesus.

I’m expecting the same answer I’ve heard hundreds of times before: “I don’t believe in all that. I trust myself.”

And I’m expecting to share the gospel of Jesus with someone who possibly has never heard.

But Miss Sally tells me that she does believe in Jesus, that she visited a church and the pastor told her about Jesus and she believed. “I’m a Christian!” she happily tells me.

I go liquid as I look into Sally’s eyes. There are people out there who, as we speak, are carrying the light into dark places because they believe God really is making all things new.

He really is.

I feel Sunshine girl grab my hands. She’s laughing. She jumps up and down at Miss Sally’s news.

If we look, we’ll see it… how God is making all things new. And if we believe it, act on it, we may even get a front row seat.

 

 Amy has designed this beautiful bracelet based on our scripture memory cards.  Let Amy’s scripture bracelets remind your heart to keep looking? Keep believing?

Please visit Amy’s Etsy shop here to view all her leather handmade products. {Beautiful!}

Plus,use discount code “LOVE316″ at checkout for 15% off your entire order!

 

july bracelet2photo (3)

 

All Things New Scripture Bracelet

What a Broken Person Has

 

 

 

“I happened to be in the courtyard when it happened.” He said it quiet. Reverent.

“About sixty missionaries were driven in and herded together, awaiting execution. What impressed me most of all about these people was their amazing fearlessness. There was no panic, no crying for mercy. Roman Catholic and Protestant alike… they awaited death with perfect calm.”

He stops for a moment. Tears fill his eyes. “I’m convinced that there can be no salvation for us sinners except through the Redeemer, Jesus Christ. This terrible massacre has led me to look into the Scriptures.”

Then he tells the story of a thirteen year old girl.

Just before the carnage began, the golden-haired girl stepped out and went to stand before the governor. “Why are you planning to kill us,” she asked.  Her voice carried to the farthest corner of the courtyard.

“Haven’t our doctors come from far-off lands to give their lives for your people? Many with hopeless diseases have been healed; some who were blind have received their sight, and health and happiness have been brought into thousands of your homes because of what our doctors have done.

“Is it because of this good that has been done that you are going to kill us?” The governor’s head was down. He had nothing to say. There was really nothing he could say.

The golden haired girl continued. “Governor, you talk a lot about filial piety. It is your claim, is it not, that among the hundred virtues filial piety takes the highest place. But you have hundreds of young men in this province who are opium sots and gamblers. Can they exercise filial piety?

“Can they love their parents and obey their will? Our missionaries have come from foreign lands and have preached Jesus to them, and He has saved them and given them power to live rightly and to love and obey their parents. Is it then, perhaps, because of this good that has been done that we are to be killed?”

By this time the governor was writhing. Each word seemed to touch him to the quick. It was far more than a defense, that brave speech, it was a sentence. It was the girl who sat in judgment and the governor stood at the bar.

But the drama only lasted for one brief moment.

A soldier, standing near the girl, grasped her by her golden hair, and with one blow of his sword severed her head from her body. That was the signal for the massacre to begin.

“I saw fifty-nine men, women, and children killed that afternoon,” went on the gentleman. “Even in the moment of death every face seemed to hold a smile of peace.

“Is it any wonder, therefore, that such marvelous fortitude should have led me to search your Scriptures and to have compelled me to believe that the Bible is in very truth the word of God?”

 

~Testimony taken from a firsthand account written by missionary to China, Jonathan Goforth 

 

 

 

And how can we live Christ if we are living for the approval of man? And how can we eat Christ if we eat the world’s fare? And how can we walk the narrow road if we are too caught up on the broad path leading to destruction?

Before God, I repent.

Some things in life are worth dying for.

Some things are worthy to be set apart unto.

Many, many things are worthy of nothing but to be left behind, set aside, turned away from. Our very selves are considered as nothing… when we have The Pearl of Great Price, the Treasure worth giving everything up for.

May I die to all else, big and small, in living and in dying, each day, every breath. Jesus, may I live it true: All I have is CHRIST.

The Coin

 

 

It was eighteen years ago that she gave us the coin.

That was before she accused Dad of running around with a young woman at church. Nearly split the church wide open. Dad came home with a shot gun and the counselor had to intervene and they’ve been seperated ever since.

But eighteen years ago was before all of that happened. Before tongues wagged and hearts broke and tears fell and things were never the same.

We were sitting at the supper table after church, Jackson and I. And Mom, she handed us a Canadian Maple.

“You’ll face hard times together,” she said. “Here’s something for you to put away for a rainy day, for when you just don’t have anything else.”

She slipped us the coin and we tucked it away and for eighteen years of marriage, while we traveled the world over and back again, that coin stayed in the attic, tucked away in its plastic sheath.

Until recently.

Jackson took it out.

He opened the safe where important documents are kept and he slipped the coin out and he looked at it.

“We need groceries,” he said.

I knew what the words cost him. I knew the pain of a hardworking man not able to fund a trip to the grocery store. But I also know something else about him… that walking the path of the Lord’s will is more important to him than anything else.

“The Lord’s going to take care of us,” Jackson continued. “He always has.”

He looked at me as he fingered the coin. The clock ticked and the fridge hummed and four little bodies lay tucked in their beds, oblivious to the choices of their parents.

It’d be a shame to just spend this.” He said it thoughtful. Slow. The processing of a man intent on what’s best for his family.

I thought of the growing grocery list: bananas, bread, jelly, toilet paper, trash bags. I thought of the empty cupboards and the empty bank account and I knew they would stay empty.

I want to invest it,” he says it slow, sure, sacred- like; an act of worship.

 

“What do you think about us selling this and giving the money to feed the Nuba people in Sudan?”

I choke back the tears and say YES! What better way to invest than in another person?

We get down on our knees and pray. “Thank You, Jesus,” I pray. “Thank You we get to be part of this, part of ministering to Your body. Thank You for the chance to give our best.”

The next day, Jackson goes to sell the coin. He returns home with $1500 cash, 15 crisp hundred dollar bills.

My man, he knows how to invest.

 

That Sunday we slip the bills into an envelope and write “Sudan” on it and we listen to the guest speaker, a Sudanese pastor.

“We take trip to Sudan,” he tells us. “We buy grain and take it into the Nuba mountains. My people are starving. They are hiding in caves and are being bombed every day. Life is hard. I cannot forsake them.”

And on this side of the world, brothers and sisters, an entire association of churches, pledge to help. We send two men with our Sudanese brother into the mountains of Sudan.

The mission is dangerous. Sudan is in turmoil and these men are entering the war zone.

The team gets stuck in Cairo. It takes days, then weeks, for the money transfer to go through. The rains are forecasted to begin any day in Sudan and when that happens, they will not be able to travel.

The team encounters one difficulty after another…they get sick, they can’t locate drivers who are bold enough to trek into the war zone, the money still won’t go through…

The team contacts us and asks everyone to fast.

We all feel the spiritual warfare of this mission. We know we battle not flesh and blood.

The call to fast goes out and we stop eating. At dinner time, the kids ask why I’m not having meal with them and I explain about the Nuba people and the need for God to provide a way. Jackson is working late…but fasting. Friends text to let each other know we are in this together.

All over our little town, we call on the Lord, asking Him to move His mighty hand. We pray for our brothers and sisters hiding in the Nuba mountains.

The Lord hears.

I get the message on a Monday morning:

“Team Nuba were able to get up the mountain, get the grain/oil/supplies to the people, and even pick up 500 refugees on the way back and safely transport them to a camp near the border.

Said they haven’t had sleep in 70 hours but they were in very good spirits. Their plan is to get rested up today and start the journey home tomorrow.
PLEASE DO NOT STOP PRAYING NOW!”

 

I fall to my knees and thank God. I ican see those faces, the mommas. The babies. All the blank stares.

But this time, I see the smiles.

It is such a sacred thing to be a part of, there is such a deep intimacy with the Lord. It is an hour before I can even call Jackson with the news.

All day, I break out in random song. When I pick oldest up from school, I excitedly tell him the news and we hoot and holler in the car.

 My Nuba sister is hiding in a cave somehwere with her children. But tonight, she will have food to give them. Tonight, she knows that the world hasn’t forsaken them, her brothers and sisters living in houses with heaping plates…well, she knows we care.

Tonight, she knows that her God delivers.

Jackson eats with us tonight, and he breaks the bread:

“Share with God’s people who are in need.

Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…

Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me.

And if anyone gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.

So do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

 

Jackson and I just look at each other.

We both feel it, the pleasure of God.

And as we eat our simple meal, we enter into our inheritance.

And I’m so full, I’m just about to pop.

Come back tomorrow, Thursday, June 21, for an update on the Sudan mission!

 

Invest means “to use, give, or devote (time, talent, etc.), as for a purpose or to achieve a profitable return.”

Sometimes when you need something the most is when you *need* to give it away.

We can spend a life or we can invest one.

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:7-8

 

Linking up with Ann today

A Bit of News

Hello friends, just a note to touch base…

We have started preparations for our return to the mission field and things are a bit crazy :) Posting around here may be weird for awhile, but I plan on being back soon. So many awesome stories to share of God’s provision, direction, and overwhelming Presence in our lives and ministry! I can’t wait to tell you!

I would like to personally invite you to keep up with our family by subscribing for updates here. An adventure awaits and I would love to have you join in.

Also, Energy Explosion is Only $2.99 on Amazon for a limited time. {PDF version is also $2.99}

Thank you so much for prayers, notes, and friendship.

Much love,
AJ

Scandalous

lonelyness

 

 

Eric and Woody were looking at me, listening intently, wondering what exactly I had discovered.

I’d entered that dark, cold prison cell with John the Baptist. With him, I’d asked, “Are You really the One?”

I’d agonized.

I’d wondered if I was really His.

I’d doubted God.

I’d done the opposite of what Jesus said the “blessed” ones do.

“My faith was obliterated,” I told them. “I needed to know where that left me. Was I shipwrecked?

“I did a word study on that word ”stumble.”

“It refers to a very specific condition, “to cease believing.”

In fact, one dictionary says it is to “cause a person to distrust One who is worthy of complete trust and obedience.”

It’s what Jesus said not to do to children.

“Furthermore,” I told them, “it is the word Jesus used when He went to the cross. He said all of the disciples would “fall away.” This is the same word He used. See, even the disciples stumbled in their faith.

“And Jesus told Peter, “Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith would remain. And when you have returned, strengthen your brethren.”

I looked into their faces, my own eyes wet. “Stumbling doesn’t have to be permanent,” I told them.

“When it all comes down, it is understanding that He holds onto us. That no matter what evil has been done to us, no matter what dark nights we have seen, no matter the fear and loneliness…no matter our own faithlessness and falling away, the depth of our sinfulness… HE IS FAITHFUL.”

“It is holding onto His character.”

And I don’t know how they understood the weak attempt I made, but they did.

Husband took over from there and explained the love of God and talked for another hour or more, doing much better than I did.

He shared how God was demonstrating His love that very moment, in bringing us all to this same place at this same time, out of every place we could and should be, the globe over…

Yet He orchestrated each of our lives so we could be together, in order for us each to know His hope and grace and speak together of His love.

“He loves you. He wants you to believe it.” And he quotes John 3:16. Such a simple statement, yet so rich.

Later, after we’d hugged Woody’s neck and prayed for them both and slipped a $20 in Woody’s old truck as an expression of God’s love, we left and returned home to our own babes and noise and busyness.

“What did the Lord say to you through all that,” husband asked me.

“I’m not sure yet,” I told him. “I need to think about it.”

I thought about what had happened to Woody.

I thought about what had happened to me, as a child.

I thought about Little Bit and the trauma she has experienced.

I thought about the depths of pain and sin and heartache and trauma.

I thought about what persecution did to John the Baptist and what disillusionment did to the disciples and what oppression did to the Israelites.

In each case, it skewed their perspective of God. It caused them to stop believing.

I thought about all the things that cause us to withdraw and reject and not believe God’s love for us.

And then it hit me.The word for “stumble,” that word that means to cease trusting the One who is absolutely worthy and deserving of our complete trust and obedience.

It’s the word “Skandalizo” in the Greek.

Scandal.

And there He is, reaching deep again and bringing me to my knees. I know what to tell Jackson. I know what it is He wants to say to me.

“It’s not what is done to you that is scandalous, my child. Distrust for Me is the real scandal.

This is what causes heavenly hosts to gasp and cover their eyes and bring hands to mouth. This is what causes those who know God’s nature to hide in shame….when one of us distrusts Him.

I thought of the abuse I experienced as a child…and that the real scandal is that I responded in distrust for God.

I thought about hardship and pain and trauma and rejection and abuse and neglect and poverty and deep suffering the world over…and yet still the real scandal is when our response is distrust for the Holy One.

Because the sufferings of this world don’t compare to the glory of Him.    If we could just see!

And isn’t this why Satan attacks our faith and starts even with the youngest of children? He wants to blind our eyes with pain. He wants to mar our vision with abuse, neglect, and hardship.

He wants us to keep our eyes on our own failures and sin.

He wants to scandalize the One who should never, ever, ever be doubted, the One who demonstrated the depths of His character by entering the womb of a woman…being cared for by sinful man…being vulnerable to other’s sin…then dying at the hands of us all.

Oh yes, Satan wants to establish early on a lifestyle of truly scandalous living…distrust for One whose very name is Love.

I drop to my knees and pray to the Holy One who is worthy. “Oh my God, may I never scandalize You again!”

“Satan has done everything he can to sift me and shipwreck my faith. But You have prayed for me and You are the author and finisher of my faith, Jesus, and You have been faithful to me when I have been faithless. Praise Your Name! Now, Worthy One, may I never scandalize You again.”

And I pray for a man named Woody, a man traveling into a Colorado winter and a painful, lonely death. “May he be saved,” I pray. “May You find him. May his dark, cold prison of death be where he discovers Your faithfulness….Your trustworthiness. May his stumbling turn to faith.”

And His whispered response reverberates deep within: “Strengthen the brethren, my child. Strengthen the brethren.”

Friend, are you stumbling? If you are, I have written you a letter that answers the question “How can my faith be restored?” I’m staying up late at the Lord’s prompting to write this :) It is my joy to share two simple lifestyle habits with you. To access the letter, simply click here. Love and blessings, friend. AJ

{Part I of this story can be read here}

“What if I’m an Esau?”

 

“We’re sending you guys to a bed and breakfast for two nights… will even take care of childcare too.”

Our pastor told us this three weeks ago and we were shocked and delighted and so Friday we dropped the kids off and packed our suitcase and drove an hour to the B&B.

It was while standing in the kitchen with our host, Eric, that we knew. We weren’t here simply for a getaway. God had sent us on a mission.

“My friend Woody is here,” Eric told us. ”We won’t get in your way. He stopped by here to say goodbye…he’s on his way out to the mountains of Colorado. He’s got hot spots all over his body and he’s headed out there to die. Alone in the Colorado mountains.”

We tried to connect with Woody all day Saturday.  Mr. Woody made himself scarce.

Come Saturday night, we ordered Chinese take-out and sat on the bed with paper plates and chopsticks and talked about what we should do. “I say let’s go down and just tell them we don’t believe in coincidence and ask to pray for each of them and see what the Lord does,” I suggested.

My husband, he’s more direct. His fire is burning and he wants to just go down with his Bible and lay it all out.

Either way, if we want to talk to Woody, we’re going to have to be obvious and direct. No casual, “natural” opening is happening.

We finish up takeout with fortune cookies and husband cracks open his cookie and reads, “Don’t wait for others to open the right doors for you.” We laugh. There you have it, we have to go knock on some doors. The fortune cookie said so! {smile}

We go downstairs with our Bible tucked under arm and they aren’t inside and the two men are outside talking where it’s dark and cold …and we go out and chat and ask if we can share breakfast with them in the morning because we’d like to pray with them and talk to them about God.

Um hum. We did.

They said sure and it was clear they were just being polite and we wonder if Woody will really show up at the breakfast table. Did we do the right thing?

8:30 Sunday morning the four of us sit down together for breakfast.

“This is only the third or fourth time I’ve ever sat down with guests,” Eric tells us and we share some missionary stories and language blunders and we all laugh pretty good.

Then we get down to business. We ask Woody about his relationship with Jesus.

“You know,” he begins. “I used to have faith. But some things happened in my life that made me wonder if what I had was real. People done me wrong…I’ve lost absolutely everything. The only thing I have left is a guitar and my old truck…and now I have to sell my guitar.

He continued.I read through the Bible in search of some foundation…I needed to know if what I thought I had was real. I came to conclude that I don’t have real faith.”

What he said next caused my eyes to well up and I didn’t really fight against it because it was the love of Christ within me coming out and didn’t he need to see it?

“I think I’m one of those that have to be slaughtered for someone else to be saved. You know…like in the book of Job, all his children were killed for Job to see and know God better. God’s going to do what God wants to do and I’m one not intended for His blessing.”

“I’m okay with that if that’s the way it’s supossed to be.”

…And my heart is shattered and I can’t believe what I’m hearing…

“I’m not one of the elect,” he says.

Eric chimes in. “I feel the same way,” he says. “What if I’m an Esau? You know, ‘Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated.’”

And husband turns to me and says, “Do you want to share anything?”

Yes, I do want to say something. It’s burning within me. It’s so close to my heart that I’m breathing shallow and my pulse is pounding and oh, I get this.

“There’s a reason he asked if I want to say something,” I begin, breathless.

“It’s because he knows I’ve struggled with the same things.” And I wonder how I can boil everything down to a simple conclusion. How can I talk about stumbling and distrust and wondering if God really loves you…about dark nights when you think you had something with God and then you are shaken to the core and you wonder if you were ever founded on the right foundation?

I take a deep breath. Everyone is looking at me. The weight of responsibility for my words is heavy on my shoulders. How can I ever say the right thing?

“The conclusion I’ve come to is this,” I tell them. “It comes down to knowing and trusting the character of God.”

They’ve read the Bible before, so I explain. “You know John the Baptist? How he spent his entire life preaching Jesus and then he was arrested? And while he was in prison, waiting for his head to get cut off, he sent friends to ask Jesus, “Are you really the One?”

“His faith was shaken to the core. He was doubting and in a very stormy place.

“What Jesus said is very interesting.  He told John to evaluate things on the basis of scripture, not circumstance. But then He said something very important and insightful. He said, “Blessed is the one who does not stumble on account of Me.”

“And I looked up that word “stumble” and did a word study on it, because that’s where I was at: a doubting, stormy, afflicted place in my faith.

“And this is what I found that changed everything for me…”

{Part II of our conversation with Eric and Woody tomorrow}

This post is linked up to Ann’s Walk with Him Wednesday. Today the discussion is faith…

She Who Believes {Living Well Watered}

 

My friend Liu Lian and I walked the street to see the widow.

It was hot like usual, and the streets were crowded with hawkers and bicyclists and taxis. People milled around the newspaper stand and the noodle shop. We stopped at the produce stand to buy some apples for the widow.

“I want to get her some milk powder, too,” my friend told me. “She is pregnant and last night when I was there, she only had two vegetable dishes on the table for dinner.”

We ducked into a small shop for the milk powder before continuing our journey.

It was so hot my feet were sweating in my sandals and mixed with dust from the streets, I had a sudden urge to take up pedicures the next time we returned to the states.

We reached the apartment complex where the newly widowed young woman lived. Liu Lian talked us past the guard and we walked down the gravel road towards her building. Liu Lian pointed out painted red markings that ran along the ground at the side of the building.

“See that?” she asked. “That’s the line for the departed spirit to follow home. In case he gets lost…”

We followed the paint up the stairs to a second floor apartment. The door posts were covered in slashed, dripping red. A candle burned outside the doorway.

Her mother was there with her and they invited us in.

The room was somber and dark and I could sense the air thick with spiritual activity. On the table was a shrine to the murdered man and incense burned and filled the apartment with a pungent smoke.

They looked at me strange, eyes hard and distrustful. I was the foreigner, the outsider. What right did I have to intrude upon something so painful, so deep as sudden, violent death? And I’d never met these people before.

Yet I was compelled, yes, I was commissioned.

Aren’t we all?

My friend asked how they were and then began speaking very quickly, beyond my ability to understand. She gestured at me and waved and they smirked and nodded and I knew they’d just agreed to tolerate me.

She turned and looked at me. I was up. “I’m so grieved by what you have experienced,” I began. “And I know there is nothing I can do to change things or make things right again. But I came here today to tell you Who can heal your broken places.”

I made a simple gospel presentation and I quoted the scripture I had memorized: John 7:38

“He who believes in Me (who cleaves to and trusts in and relies on Me) as the Scripture has said, from his innermost being shall flow (continuously) springs and rivers of living water.”

It was the only scripture I had memorized and I had worked for weeks to get it just right. Liu Lian had coached and tutored me.

I could see the desperation in the widow’s eyes. She was truly without hope. She asked me if I could help her get to America. I told her no, I didn’t have the means for that, but I had the good news of Jesus and He was better than any good life America might offer her.

She fell into a numb silence and I gave her a Jesus film and a gospel tract as we excused ourselves.

Past the dead man’s photo with incense, past the painted doorframes, down the stairs with their screaming message of despair.

Outside, Liu Lian turned to me. “Her mother told me she is pregnant with twins. She is six months along and doesn’t know how she will take care of them. She is seriously considering abortion because if she waits much longer, she will be too far along to abort legally.”

My heart broke and I immediately began praying for the lives of these two unborn babies.

I returned home but couldn’t get the woman off my heart or mind. The next day, I enlisted another friend, a local believer, to go with me to talk with the woman.

The guard was a bit more troublesome this time. My friend reverted to using the local dialect to convince him to let us in. He did, but the widow and her mother did not come to the door.

I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving without speaking to her.

We asked some neighbors if she was at home.

“She went out a couple hours ago but she should be back anytime.”

We waited.

Shortly, we saw the two women walking slowly up the gravel road, the young woman clinging tightly to the arm of her mother.

We greeted them and they were cordial and we asked to speak with them inside and they hesitated, but then acquiesced.

“I know you are struggling with so many decisions,” I told the widow. “But please, please don’t abort those babies. They are the children of your husband and there has been so much death and sadness already. You don’t need even more. Please!”

My friend also gave her advice and made many words about keeping the babies. I told her that if she needed anything, please call me or come see me and I gave her my address.

On our way out the door, the mother pulled my friend aside for a moment. We left and with tears in her eyes, my friend relayed the message to me that the widow had already aborted the babies. At the abortion, the momma found out what gender they were.

They were twin little boys.

And it had just happened that very morning. They were just returning from the clinic when we caught them on the gravel road.

We were too late.

I grieved those baby boys. “I’m so sorry,” I told them again and again~ like they could hear. “I’m so sorry.”

Grief has a way of messing with your faith. Pain and trauma and hardship all viciously attack your trust in God. There are some things that just aren’t supposed to be.

But they are.

And I’ve been through loss and grief and trauma and when I feel someone else’s, it all comes back, that innate tendency to close up and shut off because faith seems too risky. It seems downright foolish. It seems Sunday Schoolish and fairy tale and who needs that?

And yet…

It wasn’t a fairy tale when Jesus told Mary and Martha “This illness does not end in death” in John 11…and then Lazarus died. No siree, there’s nothing fairy tale about that.

Who could deny the cold, hard facts? The reality was that Lazarus lay decaying in a grave.

But didn’t Jesus also say to Martha, “If you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

So on the one hand we have the reality of death. On the other, we have the promise of God. It’s pretty clear that Jesus set this scenario up so that we would all know that faith isn’t a fairy tale. It isn’t some good-for-Sunday School-only concept.

He made sure the stakes were as high as they could possibly be, the reality as dark and the fate as sealed as possible. Then He turned around and taught us a profound lesson: that reality may be hard and cold and deathly but there is a reality just as true and real and concrete …and that is His word.

Because hadn’t He told them it wouldn’t end in death? After it was all said and done, Lazarus, the one who died, was. not. dead.

And doesn’t He say to me and to you that even though our reality may be empty and dry and spent and cold and inadequate…but there is another reality just as real and true and sure and that is His word?

She who believes will see the glory of God.

She who believes will have streams of water gushing from her innermost being.

Perhaps God wants you and me to learn what faith really is: a transferred focus from the reality I can see to the one I cannot. A faith that asks and correctly answers the question, “What is real? What I can see laying up in that tomb? or what God has said?”

What God has said is the truer reality.

 

[Most] blessed is the woman who believes in, trusts in, and relies on the Lord, and whose hope and confidence is the Lord.

For she shall be like a tree planted by the waters that spreads out its roots by the river; and it shall not see and fear when heat comes; but its leaf shall be green. It shall not be anxious and full of care in the year of drought, nor shall it cease yielding fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8

What hard reality are you facing right now?

What has God said about it?

Which reality will you believe?

 

“I, the LORD, have spoken.” She who believes the word of the Lord will live well watered.

 

 

 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...