Sunday, May 26, 2019

satan will sing you to sleep

every once in a while i read something that someone else wrote, and i'm filled with an unexplainable excitement.  it happens often with scripture, when i'm being stretched or challenged.

but sometimes, it's when something messy and complicated that exists deep in my heart and mind - gets beautifully unwound, cleaned up, and articulated.

that just happened.

jon bloom at desiring God, inspired by an unnamed missionary couple serving in the middle east, connects with something deep in my soul in the following article, posted on may 25, 2019 at desiringGod.org.

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“You don’t tell people about Jesus, because you don’t care about their eternal state.”
His assertion stung. But I knew it was true. Confronted with the way he lives for the lost, its truth was as obvious to me as the nose on my face. And like the nose on my face, I wasn’t paying much attention to it until he called it out. But unlike the nose on my face, his assertion was eternally significant.
I recently met this remarkable man while travelling in the Middle East. He, along with his wife, is leading a rapidly-growing movement of Muslims turning to Christ in a very restrictive part of the Islamic world. I had the great (and exposing) privilege of spending hours with him. I wish I could tell you more about his story — how Jesus called him and the incredible ways the Lord uniquely prepared him to make disciples and plant churches in a very dangerous place. His story is worth a book someday. For now, I will spare the details, lest I in any way expose him. 
I must pass along something he shared with me, though, because we all might be ignoring the obvious and eternally significant “nose” on our collective Western Christian faces — to our own spiritual detriment, for sure, but also to the spiritual catastrophe of those around us. 
What could happen to them

My new friend lives in an Islamic country where sharing the gospel, if you’re caught, will get you thrown into prison and likely tortured to extract information about other Christians. Yet he and his wife are daily, diligently seeking to share the gospel with others because they want to “share with them in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:23) — even more than they want their own survival. 

Each morning, when this husband and wife part ways, they acknowledge to one another that it might be the last time they see each other. She knows, if caught, part of her torture will almost assuredly include rape, probably repeatedly. He knows, if caught, brutal things await him before a likely execution. For to them, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Yet each day they prayerfully pursue the Spirit of Jesus’s direction in order to show the lost the way of salvation. And they are equipping other Christians to do the same. 
Wholly dependent on God
When I say “prayerfully,” I mean prayerfully. They, and their fellow leaders, spend a minimum of four hours a day in prayer and God’s word, and frequently fast for extended periods, before they go out seeking souls. They do this because they need to. 
Spiritual strongholds do not give way and conversions don’t happen unless they do this. One wrong move and a whole network of believers could be exposed. So, they depend on the Holy Spirit to specifically lead them to people the Spirit has prepared. For them, the doctrine of election is not some abstract theological controversy for seminary students to debate. They see it played out in front of them continually. 
The cessationism-continuationism debate is also a moot issue for them. They regularly see the Holy Spirit do things we read about in the book of Acts. As my friend described the Spirit’s activity where he lives, it was clear that all the revelatory and miraculous spiritual gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12–14 are a normal part of life for these believers — because they really need them. 
They’re not debating Christian Hedonism either. When you live under the threat of death daily, either life is Christ and death is gain to you, or you will not last. So, I learned that my friend has translated John Piper’s original sermon series on Christian Hedonism into his native language and used them as part of his core theological curriculum for believers. 
Lulled by an evil lullaby
All those things were wonderful and encouraging — as well as convicting — to hear. But then he told me a disturbing story.
A number of years ago, this man and his wife were given the opportunity to move to the States, and they did. After living here for a period of time, however, the wife began to plead with her husband that they move back to their Islamic country of origin. Why? She told him, “It’s like there’s a satanic lullaby playing here, and the Christians are asleep. And I feel like I’m falling asleep! Please, let’s go back!” Which they did (God be praised!). 
This story contains an urgent message we must hear: she wanted to go back to a dangerous environment to escape what she recognized as a greater danger to her faith: spiritual lethargy and indifference. This should stop us in our tracks. Do we recognize this as a serious danger? How spiritually sleepy are we? 
According to my new friend, we can gauge our sleepiness by how the eternal states of non-Christians around us shape the way we approach life. Judging by the general behavior of Christians in the West, it’s clear to my friend that, as a whole (we all can point to remarkable exceptions), we don’t care much about people’s eternal states. 
Are we content to sleep?
My friend and his wife are right. There is a satanic lullaby playing, even in churches, across the West. Why else are we so lethargic in the midst of such relative freedom and unprecedented prosperity? Where is our collective Christian sense of urgency? Where are the tears over the perishing? Where is the groaning? Where is the fasting and prevailing intercession for those we love and those we live near and those we work with, not to mention the unreached of the world who have no meaningful gospel witness among them? 
Paul had “great sorrow and unceasing anguish in [his] heart” over his unbelieving Jewish kinsmen (Romans 9:2). Do we feel anything like that? And Paul’s Spirit-inspired urgency to bring the gospel to the lost shaped his whole approach to life:
I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:22–23)
What is shaping our approach to life? If we think that kind of mentality was only for someone with Paul’s apostolic calling, all we need to do is keep reading 1 Corinthians 9:24–27. It’s clear that Paul means for us to run our unique faith-races with the same kind of kingdom-focused mentality.
If we’re not feeling anguish over people’s eternal state and ordering our lives around praying for and trying to find ways to bring the gospel to them, we are being lulled to sleep by the devil’s soothing strains. It’s time to start fasting and praying and pleading with God and one another to wake up. 
Now is the time
It matters not if we call ourselves Calvinists and believe we have an accurate knowledge of the doctrine of election, if our knowledge does not lead us to feel anguish in our hearts over the lost and a resolve to do whatever it takes to save some. “We do not yet know as we ought to know” (to paraphrase 1 Corinthians 8:2). What we need is to cultivate Paul’s heart for the lost.
My conversation with this new friend showed me that, Calvinist though I am, I do not yet know as I ought to know. 
But, Father, I want to know as I ought to know! I repent of all lethargy and indifference! I will not remain sleepy anymore when it comes to the eternal states of the unbelieving family and friends and neighbors and restaurant servers and checkout clerks all around me. 
Over our dead bodies
According to Jesus, in his parable of the ten virgins, spiritual sleepiness is a very, very dangerous condition (Matthew 25:1–13). We need to get more oil — now! There isn’t much time.
I want to be done with satanic sleepiness and cultivate the resolve that led Charles Spurgeon — that unashamed Calvinist — to say
If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.
Father, in Jesus’s name, increase my anguish over perishing unbelievers and my urgent resolve to “become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22), whatever it takes!


original article by john bloom at desiringgod.org

Monday, May 6, 2019

pieces coming together while stateside

so much has happened during this "stateside furlough."  i am just now attempting to journal some of the stories...

our time here has been fruitful in more ways than i can explain.  it's been a special season with family - including our daughter brooke’s wedding, our daughter madi’s college graduation, and our son jake’s transition into college.  we've also had wonderful extended time with our parents and siblings, which has been pretty impossible over the last 10 years.

i've been able to preach at several of our supporting churches, and kerrie and I have been teaching a class on sanctification at our home church of emmaus jacksonville.  it's been such a joy to have the time of encouragement and edification within the body of believers - another thing that's tough to find in the foreign mission field.  we’ve also connected with a local soccer ministry to refugees called and are excited about whatever God does with that partnership.

i have also taken advantage of the time stateside to fundraise for the academies, collecting uniforms and equipment, and have gotten back to visit both guatemala and honduras to encourage our missionaries, staff, and Rhinos.  thanks to all who have donated gear!

God beginning to reveal what is next 
we took a true “sabbatical” for our first several months back in the states to rest and refuel. we had felt that iraq would be our next BVSA location, and we had visited there and made some contacts. but during this initial 3 months back, we felt like God was telling us to be quiet and be with Him – and specifically NOT to pursue anything ministry-wise.  the sabbatical was great for several reasons, and I will share more about that at a later date. but at the conclusion of the 3 months, kerrie and i were at a worship gathering at emmaus on a sunday morning...  

some missionaries from west africa were visiting, who had been working in the same village to a completely unreached people group for 28 years.  living in "the bush", a 13 hour drive from any airport, they had seen 3 people come to Christ over that entire time. at the conclusion of their talk, the husband said something to the tune of: 

“oh...  we’d also like to ask for prayer on something. lately we’ve been trying to reach the boys and teenagers in the village by playing soccer.  if I throw a soccer ball down on my property, they flock to us. we believe this is a great opportunity, but we just can’t take it on because of the work we’re already doing.  so we’re praying for someone to come that could lead a soccer ministry and help us reach all of these boys.”

instant goosebumps!  kerrie and I looked at each other in disbelief.  we were in shock!

new families
skipping ahead to more recently...  
since that time, we have been meeting with the couple from west africa now for several months and are convinced that God is sending us to west africa for BVSA #3!  when we initially shared this with them, they couldn't believe it.  they have been working alone (for the most part) for nearly 3 decades, and were stunned when we shared that we were willing to come.  when we still said "yes" after all the warnings of how difficult life in this village is, i think they finally believed us!  the wife eventually shared with kerrie that they simply didn't want to get their hopes up.

we are still believing for a BVSA-Iraq, but are trusting that God had His reasons to change the order around.  we are scheduled for a visit to west africa in june, and we will begin the process of logistics for a move.

being a 2-family ministry model, we began praying for 2 missionary families to join us.  our plan was to meet with all of our supporting churches to see if there were any families feeling called to the foreign mission field. then, we would follow up with an email blast to all of our contacts to share the need as well.

God had other plans!  Before we did either of the above, God began doing miracles.  in a short time, God brought 2 families into our lives that we did not previously know. almost immediately, they both shared with us that they felt called to join us for the ministry plant in west africa.  (More specifics to come!)

family #1
oby is a muslim-background believer who was excommunicated from his family when he chose Christ. this is an invaluable perspective in light of where we are headed - to a village that is 100% muslim. monique is fluent in french.  in the country where we are headed, french is the national language! oby is also an avid soccer player and certified coach.  and most importantly, the two are as passionate about Jesus, and sharing their faith, as any young couple we’ve ever seen!  what a miracle!

monique & oby with me, kerrie, and luci
prayer requests: monique has a serious medical condition that we are praying for answers and healing.  they have some school, medical, and car debt that needs taken care of. we're praying against satan's attacks, as we know he doesn't want this amazing young couple taking their gifts and experiences to an unreached people group. 

family #2
the husband serves as the community pastor at their church, and also started a youth center in the city where they live, to minister to troubled boys age 10-18.  they regularly have boys living with them who are in the worst situations.  their experience in this area has uniquely prepared them for BVSA ministry work!  they have an 18 month old girl, and are also expecting a baby boy in september. 

prayer requests:  they currently have a foster child staying with them who will need to be reunited with her mom before they can commit to leave.  we're praying for this girl, her mom, and for God's will in that whole situation.  praying also for her pregnancy, and all the emotions and nerves that come with taking young children to the mission field. also for the process of raising support, and sharing their decision with family and friends. 

needless to say we are in awe of God!  his faithfulness is blowing our minds, yet again.

2 new families with some members of bvsa leadership!
please be praying with us for both families, as well as our own... as we know that satan is already scheming and trying to disrupt. please pray for strong unity and devotion between our families, and great determination to see the Lord's will be done.

i’ll share more soon- with more location details, names of families, etc.  we're being careful for now, for specific reasons.  

THANK YOU for your continued support.  this "stateside assignment" has been a critical time for us, for so many reasons.  most importantly, it has allowed for the Spirit-led pieces coming together for our next academy plant – this one in the 10/40 window to an unreached people group!  praise Jesus!!!!