Monday, January 8, 2018

Investing in Relationships

"For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property..." Matthew 25:14.

I had a meeting with our financial advisor recently. He has given me good and godly advice for many years regarding some money we've set aside for our retirement. One of principles in investing is 'think long-term'.

From the parable of the 'talents', we see that the master entrusted a sizable amount of money to each of his servants according to their ability to use on his behalf.

Put into modern terms, each of his employees was empowered to invest wisely what the boss gave them.

The main application we can take from this is that each person has been entrusted with unique abilities by God. Some more and some less. None of the gifts he has given are insignificant. They are all important in the kingdom of God. At the end of age, we will meet our 'master', not for judgement and condemnation but for rewards. The best news we can hear is "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

If we can translate this to 'ministry', we like to think of 'long term investment' too. We hope and pray that the 'seed thoughts' we have sown in each Muslim contact's mind would sprout and grow into faith in Jesus. There are obviously different seasons in ministry--starting from the initial befriending and then coming alongside them and caring for them for many years. We have invested not only time in relating but time in praying and tracking with some of our Muslim friends for years and some decades. For those who show no spiritual appetite, we may take a hiatus but check in with them from time to time. We can do this quite naturally when our Muslim friend has experienced a loss or something special.

The Berlin Wall was erected in the dead of night on August 13, 1961 to keep disenchanted East Berliners from leaving. On November 9, 1989, as the Cold War began to thaw across Eastern Europe, the spokesman for the East Berlin's Communist Party announced a change in his city's relations with the West. Starting at midnight that day, he said, citizens of the GDR(German Democratic Republic) were free to cross the country's borders.

The Berlin Wall didn't just come down in one day. There were many years of pressure on the communist government--on both sides of the border. Finally one day, an opening in the wall was allowed and people rushed across. Soon the dreaded wall was demolished. Many took pieces of the Berlin Wall as mementos or to profit from by selling a 'piece of the wall'.

We see that the 'Muslim World' is crumbling and becoming fragmented. With the power of God and the prayer and perseverance of God's people, many Muslims are listening to the Good News. This is a call to all of you reaching out to Muslims--do not weary in well-doing, keep on investing, and 'putting pressure on the wall of resistance' with God's help. There will be a harvest...a great harvest at the end of the age. It has already begun. Praise God.

"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

A Search

Eastern Christians celebrate 'Epiphany' ten days after Christmas Day. They remember the arrival of the 'Wise Men' from the East in search of a new king.

Some time prior to this the shepherds on the hills of Bethlehem were terrified by the appearance of an angel surrounded by light one night. He assured them "Don't be afraid...The Savior...has been born will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger." Luke 2:10-12. With these clues they immediately went to search for him. They figured it out quickly and met this miracle child. "The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen..." vs. 20

The actual Epiphany event may have been close to 2 years later. "...About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We have seen his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him." Matthew 2:1b&2

Probably these were Kurdish Astrologers or Astronomers who came along the trade routes of the day through the ancient city of Petra, Jordan. They'd been gazing at this star. Their calculations finally brought them to Jerusalem. King Herod viewed this baby as a threat to his dynasty. He found out from the religious scholars where the Messiah was supposed to be born. With that information the 'Wise Men' set out for Bethlehem and not a GPS but the star directed them to the exact house where Jesus, Joseph, and Mary were staying. They worshipped Jesus and gave him gifts. They were directed in a dream to take a different route home and warned not to report back to Herod.

A variety of Muslims are discovering the real Jesus today. What clues do they go by? Some are assisted in their search by Christian programs or internet sites. Others receive clues from the Qur'an. It confirms what the prophet Isaiah wrote about 1400 or more years before the Qur'an was written. A virgin would give birth to Jesus, the Messiah. Perceptive Muslims observe, "This was no ordinary prophet."

In recent months an educated young man living in a Muslim country was on such a search. He stumbled across the Apostles Creed (click) on the internet and began to understand who Jesus is. His search led him to a 'Muslim friendly' website in Canada that helped him to discover the truth in the Bible. We connected with him and were able to direct him from a distance. God confirmed his search by several dreams. In fact, he wrote us that one of his dreams was identical to a dream described in 'I Dared to Call Him Father' (click). It was a victorious day when he wrote "I am a follower of Jesus." and again when he wrote "I was baptized today. I am starting a new life."

We read in 'Daily Bread' a few weeks ago that people respond in different ways to the coming of Jesus--some reject the message. Some ignore the message as many in our Western cultures do and others welcome Jesus.

"For those who make room for Jesus in their hearts, God makes room for them in heaven." (Daily Bread)

Lord God, reward all those on a search for truth to find you. Amen.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Jesus, the Refugee

" angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." Matthew 2:13.

I bought this Christmas ornament from a popular card store. We looked closely and realized that there is no baby in the manger! What use is a manger scene without Jesus? Reminds me of the current culture where the focus has shifted from celebrating Christmas to Holiday Season. The message of the manger is endangered.

''There’s much we don’t know about Joseph and Mary. We assume Mary was quite young. Somehow we think Joseph was a bit older, for he was a carpenter. In a land of few trees and unlimited rocks, where houses were built of stone, that may indicate he was more of a stonemason than a woodcrafter. But still, there’s so much we don’t know. For example, how did the couple feel when they left Nazareth for Bethlehem? Did they cast a parting glance at their little hometown on the hillside?

Here’s what we do know. Joseph and Mary were devoted to caring for their baby. Jesus came first. They searched for the best spot for His birth, dedicated Him to God in infancy, and undertook a rigorous trip to Egypt when He was endangered. The most important thing about Joseph and Mary was their devotion to Christ." (Turning Point)

Traditional Muslims who come here also try to keep Christ out of the season. We were at a party recently where there was no reference to Christmas or the holiday. In fact, even the Christmas trees in the four corners of the banquet room were unplugged.

This year we noticed fewer Christmas carols sung in the malls and less decorations. Was this intentional or a budget issue? Without a spirit of giving...without the core message of 'Jesus', this 'holiday season' may not survive as we know it. God's gift to earth has provided inspiration to give at this time of year--with a year end tax receipt taboot for those who need it. Let's not forget, the original Saint Nicholas's generosity in the 4th century was preceded by God's generosity.

We were with a Muslim family this past week who arrived in our city as refugees a year ago. We shared the story of Christmas--first by asking what they knew of the story. We filled in the details and the message of Christmas and that Jesus was a refugee in Egypt. Kamal said "Why don't Christians talk about God in this country?" Amazing. He was waiting for Christians to tell him the message and meaning of Christmas!! All we could say, for many people life is going great and they probably don't need God very much. Kamal observed that this phenomena was happening everywhere among Muslims, Jews, and Christians.

We won't let this happen 'on our watch' and want to continue proclaiming the wonder of Jesus. We're not alone--a large teaching hospital in our city founded by the Catholics put up a full size manger scene front center of their entrance. Praise God for reminders!

Lord Jesus, I want to share you with the waiting world. Help my brothers and sisters to do likewise in their circles of influence. Amen.