Make Him Known

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The day I ran out of our Sunday School class –

I was in the middle of listening to the teaching from Luke
on the topic of Heaven and Hell –

I had just cried through all of worship and part of the morning sermon –

a sermon on Jesus commissioning His disciples to preach the Gospel –

1 day after seeing a picture of the headstone for the first time –

2 and a half  months after his passing –

4 months after last seeing him in the hospital – stroking his head, kissing his forehead, squeezing his hand, looking him in the eyes, and telling him for the last time face to face, “I love you, dad.”

One year after being sent as a ‘missionary’,
I lost a loved one that may be separated from Christ forever –

and…my…heart…aches. 

My God has been gracious and brought me comfort, hope, strength, and great peace the last couple of months.   But, on this day, I finally came face to face with the reality that I knew I had to eventually deal with.  

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,
but whoever rejects the Son will not see life,
for God’s wrath remains on him.
(John 3:36)

I’ve prayed, from the beginning of my dad’s deteriorating health, that my faith and trust in Christ would not be shaken even if ones I love pass away without knowing Him.  And, thanks be to my Heavenly Father, it has not.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  I know what I believe and He is good and faithful – ALWAYS – even, when my longing and prayers for dad to know the only One who could save him seem to have been ‘unanswered’.  But, only God truly knows the condition of my father’s soul right before he passed away.  Paraphrasing Randy Alcorn’s words, I don’t know whether the Holy Spirit of God might have done a work of grace in his heart and life at the last moment.

Am I angry or upset with God?  No.  He is  loving, sovereign, and just.  Rather, I am frustrated and disappointed with myself.  Oh the sorrow, the regrets over missed opportunities, and the intermingling whispers of failure.  In my feeble attempts, I tried to share Christ – a Bible, the kids’ drawings with written verses, my written testimony, a life that I pray was an example of Christ living in me…but in the end, it doesn’t seem like it was enough. 

In the sermon that day, I was side struck by an illustration and application that the pastor shared…

It’s not just enough to say I’m going to live a  good life before others.  There’s a story of a man who came to Christ during an evangelistic event in the Pacific Northwest and when he told his boss about it, this boss responded with, “Well that’s great! I’m a Christian and I’ve been praying for you for years.”  But the new believer was heartbroken. “Why didn’t you ever tell me?” he said.  “You’re the very reason I haven’t been interested in the gospel all these years.”  “How can this be?” the boss wondered.  “I’ve done my very best to live a Christian life around you.”  “That’s the point,” he exclaimed, “You’ve lived such a model life without telling me that it was Christ who made the difference in your life.  I convinced myself that I could live the same way you could live – without Christ.” 

Mark Mittleberg said this.  It’s a little strong, but I believe it’s true.  “Our popular version of evangelism says, ‘If I just live as a consistent Christian, people will see it, figure it out, and come to Christ.’  But that approach isn’t biblical, and it doesn’t work.” Everything I’ve shared with you today is to go tell and compel them to come. Yes, I understand Matthew 5:16 “Go let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify God in heaven.”   Yes, we are to live a good, moral, and ethical life.  We’re to represent Christ, but we were commissioned to go tell.

How my mind summarized all of this and what I actually wrote in my sermon notes came out as: ’Just living a moral and ethical Christian life isn’t biblical.  We are commanded to go and TELL of Jesus Christ.  Yes, we are to shine our light, but, sadly it may point to our own accomplishments and works and not to our need for Christ’s saving power and work in us – if we don’t also PROCLAIM Him.’

Over the next several days, I did a lot of praying and a little digging in online commentaries and sermons to try to better understand what it means to ‘shine our light’.

John Gill’s commentary of Matthew 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men” states,

…the spiritual knowledge and mysteries of grace…were to be openly declared and made manifest before men…

He goes on to say “that they may see your good works” refers to

…their zeal and fervency, their plainness and openness; their sincerity, faithfulness, and integrity, their courage and intrepidity; their diligence, (and) industry..in preaching the Gospel; their strict regard to truth, the honor of Christ, and the good of souls; as also their very great care and concern to recommend the doctrines of grace, by their examples in their lives and conversations

Matthew Henry’s commentary of the same verse states,

They must shine as lights, by their good preaching, the knowledge they have. They must communicate for the good of others – not put it under a bushel, but spread it.

In the fuller context of Matthew 5:13-16, John MacArthur makes a distinction between being ‘salt’ and being ‘light’, stressing the need for both:

Salt is the silent testimony, it is our moving through the world and affecting it with our very life…..We are to flavor life with the wonder of God’s presence among us. We are to sting and convict the sinful wound of the world. We are to create a thirst for Christ by the very way we live….but light shines on the outside, and light is open and working visibly. In other words, salt is the influence of Christian character; it is quiet but powerful. Light is the communication of the content of the Gospel. So there are two sides; on one hand, we live it, on the other hand, we preach it…It isn’t just in our words, but in our very overt, open godly conduct. We are not to be just a subtle influence like salt, but we are to be a very open and blatant influence like light…"Let your light so shine before men that they will see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven." That implies, first of all, that they see our good works. Secondly, they glorify our Father in Heaven; that means they’ve heard something about our Father in Heaven. It implies both a life and a message lived and spoken.

We are told to be witnesses, as salt and light, to share what Jesus has done in our lives and to share our story.  Did I do that?  I, honestly, don’t know how well it came across.  Was I fearful, feeling inadequate, too busy, or worse by far, ashamed of the gospel?  As an introvert, desiring to please my earthly parents and not cause strife, I admit that I wasn’t bold enough to speak and share freely of what Jesus had done in my life and relied too much on hoping that my life (that silent, salt-like testimony) would point others to Christ.

I know that I wasn’t the only one who could speak the Living Word of Truth to my dad, that he had the opportunity to read the Gospel, and that even all of creation reveals who He is.  I also have to remember that it wasn’t up to me.  Regardless of what I may have said (or neglected to say), did (or did not do), the Holy Spirit is the One who convicts of sin and leads someone to come to faith in Christ. 

I overflow with tears as I type this…It is too late for my dad.  He can no longer decide whether to either accept or reject Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior.   Only God knows, at this point, the final decision that was made and dad’s eternal destiny. 

Have you decided?  While we were still sinners, God sent His own Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins so that we would no longer be separated from Him.  Have you trusted in Jesus and repented from your sins?  

and

Have you shared the great news?  Who is in your life that God has commissioned you to go and reach with the wonderful, life giving message of Christ dying on the cross to save them from their sins? 

Go.  Proclaim. 

Live to know Him and make Him known.

When You Feel Upside Down

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 

He told us to come and we followed.

I am sure many thought us to be fools – walking away from a great paying job that my husband enjoyed, selling a large beautiful home in a family friendly neighborhood, leaving a spiritually rich and biblically sound home church, saying goodbye to godly supportive friends and families that were fairly close by… stepping away from our support system, out of our comfort zone, to follow His call to go.   No, we didn’t sell all we own and move to the other side of the world.  We actually kept most of our belongings and just traveled across several state lines!  It took God preparing our hearts to hear Him and to respond, even in this tiny step of faith to serve in a support role to advance Bible translation with the goal of the Scriptures going forth.  He encouraged us through His Word, His people, and His Spirit, granting us peace every step of the way to get us here.  And I am so thankful for His gentle guiding hand leading up to our departure.

Now, it’s been six months.

Six months since we sold our home, packed up our belongings, said goodbyes, and drove away.

It’s been six months, half a year.

Half a year of being in transition, church searching, living somewhere ‘temporarily’, and seeing so many families come and go from the center where we are assigned.

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

I would be lying to say that it has been easy, just moving within the states to do His will.  And, I would be untruthful if I said that I haven’t doubted on occasion why we are here (for we haven’t been here long enough to see any effect) or that, at times, I have wanted to quit and go running back.  I grieve all we left behind – the relationships, the teaching and wise counsel, the familiarity of our hometown, and simply knowing my place and how I fit in within my community.  I’m someone who dislikes change and unknowns, but who thrives with clear expectations, timetables, and a plan in hand. 

BUT, everything seems to have been flipped
and turned upside down for the past six months.  fragile 

While hanging here, struggling upside down, I’ve somehow forgotten that …

it is God who calls us,
God who equips us,
God who hears us,
God who is here among us,
and God the One in whose sole strength I can trust

While feeling upside down, I have to remember.

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

My soul clings to Him and I remember that it is His right hand that upholds me and grips mine tightly. I can, and must, continue to depend upon Him and count Him faithful every step of the way – even when it is hard – amidst the grieving of relationships, the uncertainty of how I fit in and can be used of Him here, and of the feeling that I have somehow already failed for not adjusting as well or as quickly as I had hoped.  In this foggy period of transition and change, I know and have confidence that God is still at work.  I can only see the jumbled back side of the tapestry that He is weaving, but I rely upon the Master’s skillful, gentle hand to make something beautiful in His time, for His glory. 

trust

*Scripture taken from Matthew 14:22-32 NIV, 1984 (emphasis added). 
Artwork by my precious daughter from her sermon notes.

We Never Walk Alone

Commissioning Day – February 24, 2013

A day full of tears, full of prayers, and an outpouring of love from the body of Christ…

prayers

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

~Never Once by Matt Redman

 

prayers2

Our hearts are full of thankfulness to our amazing God who never has us walk alone.

Not Because of Who I Am

Over the past year, our family has been involved in sharing how God is working to bring His Word to the nations– through the work of Wycliffe and the Bible translation process.

wycliffe table

After a recent presentation, I was taken a little off guard by a question in regards to missions and our upcoming move. The question was worded similar to this…

“What is it about you that you are able to just get up and change the direction of your life?  What is it that you’ve got?  What does it take to do something like this?”

I smiled awkwardly, fumbled with my answer, and then finally said the first thing that had come to my mind, “There is nothing special about me.”  We talked a little bit more, but as with most conversations I walk away from, I realized what I should have said – much after the fact.

My more elaborate answer should have resembled the following…

There is nothing special about me.  It is all about Jesus.  It takes intimately knowing the One who has called you.  It takes trust that has built up over multiple times of finding Him faithful.  In order to step out in faith – whether to reach out to an unsaved neighbor, to move your family to the inner city to minister within community, to moving across the country to further the Gospel, or crossing the ocean to bring the Good News to those who have never heard – you must trust that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever and that He will continue to be faithful and true. It takes reminding yourself of Who you serve – the King of kings and Lord of lords, who loved us so much that he died for us and took away our sins.  I, this weak and sinful vessel, go and follow His call, not because of who I am, but because of who my Savior is.

God will still make a great name for himself among the nations. God involves us in His mission not because He needs us but because He loves us and in His mercy He has invited us to be involved in His sovereign design for the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth.
~ David Platt, Divine Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death-Defying Missions, Together for the Gospel 2012

Skittles & Translation

 

Skittles 1 (2) Skittles 2

From the very beginning of our journey to missions, we knew we wanted to somehow involve our entire family.  So, when we had the opportunity last fall to start sharing with other believers the needs of the Bibleless, I began searching for a way to involve the kids.  I was so excited when I came across another Wycliffe missionary family’s blog and how their kids did a quick presentation using Skittles.  I contacted the other family, the Tolivers, and requested permission to copycat their original idea. 

Then, we had fun counting and practicing….

Skittles Prepcounting Skittles hundreds 
practice 1 practice2

At first, as we were sorting and counting, the most difficult part was keeping the kids from eating the Skittles.  We would jokingly say, “Don’t eat a language!”   Of course, after taking all of the effort of working together to carefully count the Skittles, the kids quickly learned the importance of not dropping, eating, or misplacing a ‘language’.

While I think our copycats gave a great visual for the need for Bible translation, the Toliver kids did an excellent job!  They recently remade the original video and it looks very professionally done.  Go check it out!

Skittles & Translation from RBennett on Vimeo.

 

Out of a known 6,800 languages spoken in the world today, only 471 language groups have the entire Bible translated into the language that they understand best.  Over 2,000  languages have a need for Bible translation to begin.   That means there are close to 350 billion people around the world today that have NO Bible available in their heart language(Stats were taken form the 2011 worldwide status of Bible translation.)  Won’t you join us in reaching the Bibleless with the gospel of Christ?

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