Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Investing in the Few for the sake of the Many

I was discussing ‘summer camps’ for teenagers with a friend whose son leads a very prestigious camp. ‘They only work with private schools’ she said. ‘They reckon that even these days, statistics show that most leaders have a private educational background, and the camp vision is to invest in potential Christian leaders, and through them to bless the whole church.’

 I didn’t say so but it seemed unfair to me. After all Jesus didn’t look for 12 young men with immaculate backgrounds. The ‘band of brothers’ who formed his inner circle of twelve disciples were a very suspect group. An unscrupulous tax collector, an insurrectionist, someone who would betray him for a few gold coins, men with ambitions for themselves and fiery tempers when crossed … not very promising material .But he invested three years in these few men to whom he entrusted his message. If they weren’t effective in getting it out to the world when he had returned to his Father, there was no plan B.

And not only did Jesus invest in a few people, but he also knew what his mission was and when to say no. After an evening of healing people with many diseases and dealing with the demon possessed, the disciples assumed that he would continue to make the best of his popularity. But Jesus had other ideas. Mark 1:38

‘Let us go … to the nearby villages so that I can preach there also. That is why I have come.‘

What are you investing in? How good are you at focusing on what you feel to be God’s calling on your life? Do you have a dream? Are you prepared to put in the time and the commitment to see it come to pass? As we move through life we sometimes have to make adjustments. In his book ‘Put Your Dream to the Test’ Dr John Maxwell writes:

‘Going after a dream is like climbing a mountain. We will never make it to the summit if we are carrying too much …As we enter each new phase of the climb, we face a decision. Do we take on more things to carry, or lay down things that won’t help us climb, exchange what we have for something else or stop climbing all together?

The writer to the Hebrews put it so well in ch.12 ‘Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.’ It won’t necessarily be easy but there is joy in the offering. Just as the sun, focused through a magnifying glass, can start a tiny flame which can end up as a roaring inferno, so can our focused efforts.  And the key to success is to refuse to be distracted by the many things that clamour for our attention, and to fix our eyes on the One who has designed the race in the 1st place.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Nothing is wasted

I’m glad that I wasn’t born at a time when missionaries packed their belongings in coffins and had an average life-expectancy of 18 months ‘on the field.’ Would you … could you have sent your son or daughter to what seemed like certain death with a heart full of faith for what they would accomplish in that short time? As a mother of a missionary daughter I quail at the thought. Would I have gone myself … knowing that I was unlikely to come back? I hope so but …And yet some of these brave men and women achieved more for the Kingdom of heaven in those few short months than the rest of us do in a lifetime

Most of us will have read a lot about North Korea in recent weeks. It seems a very unattractive place to go now, and I suspect that the ‘Hermit Kingdom’ seemed equally unattractive to most people in the 1800’s. But not to Robert Thomas, a young Welsh missionary. His wife died in China as a result of a miscarriage, but rather than heading back to his native Wales in his grief, Robert was haunted by the needs of Korea. In 1865 he set sail for this spiritually unreached land, staying there for some months, before returning to China. I would have been deterred from the beginning by the fact that I had no written Christian material in the Korean language. Not Robert. He handed out tracts and New Testaments in Chinese.

 The Governor of the province, Pak Kyu Su, attacked the ship, and as the sailors fled from the boat, the Koreans killed them. Robert leaped from the boat carrying a Bible. "Jesus, Jesus!" he cried in Korean to the attackers, offering them the Bible. His head was whacked off with a stroke of a machete according to one account, but others think he pleaded for his life and was beaten to death.

Was it all a waste of a young man’s life? However he died, God worked in the heart of the man who killed him. Convinced by Robert's beaming face that he had killed a good man, he kept one of the Bibles, wallpapering his house with it. People came from far and near to read its words. A church grew. A nephew of Robert's killer became a pastor.

Today 40% of South Koreans are Christians and the nation has some of the largest congregations in the world. Even in the totalitarian regime in the North Korea, there are believed to be secret Christian believers, but they risk everything for their faith. If they are discovered, they are brutally punished unless they recant. In fact a recent report claims that when fugitive Christians who were hiding in ditches in the countryside were caught, they were run over by a steam roller, feet first. 

Today, those of us who reach out in faith to others, take little or no risk physically. But we can easily become discouraged and de-motivated when little seems to happen as a result of our efforts. It is then we need to remember what happened at the Feeding of the 5,000. Jesus took a very small amount of food, willingly offered, and multiplied it to feed a huge crowd. Even the broken pieces were worth collecting up at the end of this mass picnic. Jesus said’ Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.’ John 6:12

I love the words of the veteran missionary Amy Carmichael, who spent much of her ‘missionary’ work in India confined to bed. But her written words still resonate today:
“Our dear Lord cares for the broken pieces of our lives, the fragments of all we meant to do, the little we have .. to offer and he will use even these fragments. He will not let even the least of our little broken things be lost.”

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Only a boy called David

Only a boy called David

If you are of the generation who went to Sunday School you may have sung the chorus:
“Only a boy called David, only a babbling brook
only a boy called David, but five little stones he took.
One little stone went in the sling and the sling went round and round,
Round and round and round and round and round and round and round
 [this involved much arm waving, and if your neighbour got poked in the eye that just added to the fun!]
One little stone went up, up, up
And the Giant came tumbling down”

We've had one of those ‘ David and Goliath’ situations in our family recently. Having been brought up in Kenya, our grandson Cameron came back to England for ‘A’levels  two years ago and hopes to go to ‘uni’ this autumn. But university is expensive and his missionary parents don’t get a salary. So he desperately wanted a holiday job this summer. 40 CV’s distributed and numerous phone calls made and still a job seemed as far away as ever. He was willing to do ANYTHING, from working in Next, to grave digging!  I felt so burdened for him and prayed earnest ‘grandmotherly’ prayers for something … anything … that would lift the anxiety from his shoulders.

One morning the whisper came as I prayed. ‘What about Richard?’ Richard is a builder and did the conversion on our house four years ago. He is also a Christian.  He has a big job on this summer – a massive revamping of the inside of our church. Labourers are needed. Yesterday Cameron spent the day shifting bricks for Richard’s current project. He’s got the job! And not just any job.When his exams are over, he’ll be working with a team that shares his faith, and he’ll be helping to rebuild the church! And we will have the pleasure of his company for a couple of months – a rare and precious bonus for grandparents who have had to love this particular family of grandchildren from afar!

Another old chorus came to mind:

I will build my church
And the gates of hell
Shall not prevail against it.

All of us have to face our own 'Goliath of Gath' at times. But the words of David still ring true against the threats of Satan.  ' You come to me with sword,spear and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of heaven's Armies. 1 Samuel 17:45

He will build His church - we just have to go to him for the right ammunition.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Bars of Iron Can't stop Him

My current water walking adventure is centred on letting people know that  my book 'Its Just you and Me Lord' is being sold in Sam's Club. The motive behind this is to see the book in the hands of people who would never go into a Christian bookstore or order on line from the publisher.

When you look at it in the cold light of day, it seems a hopeless task – worse than looking for a needle in a haystack. I’ve never seen a Sam’s Club [we don’t have them in the UK] , but I gather that the goods are sold in warehouse type buildings and are stacked high so that sheer volume of sales will allow them to be sold at low prices.

‘How will a small gift book like ‘It’s Just You and Me Lord’ be found and make it’s mark in such surroundings?’ I ask myself in the middle of the night. I feel as hopeless as the disciple at the feeding of the 5,000, who said “We have only 5 loaves  .. and 2 fish … but what are these among so many?” But when they were handed to Jesus a miracle occurred.

I love the way that God speaks to us in our doubts and fears. Yesterday in Church, we had a reading from Is.45: 1 which seemed just for me:

 This is what the Lord says to his anointed … whose hand I take hold of … to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut;

I will give you the treasures of darkness
riches stored in secret places
so that you may know that I am the Lord
                                                 the God of Israel, who calls you by name.

These words were spoken to Cyrus, a pagan king who was being used for God's purposes. Without any disrespect to Sam's Club, it encourages me to think that God can use anything and anyone, for his purposes.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Water Walking for Beginners

Meet the Indalo man

I like the Indalo man. Discovered originally as a prehistoric wall painting in a cave, he has been adopted as the symbol of the Almeria province of Spain for the last hundred years. He is everywhere in that area. Painted on the wall of our hotel bedroom, he walked confidently over the waves, holding onto the rainbow arching over his head. I like him because he reminds me of Peter. Doing the impossible; walking on water and holding the promises of God in his hands.

During the next 6 weeks I’m going to do some water-walking. It’s not the 1st time, but I’ve never done anything quite like this before.

My new book 'It's Just you and Me Lord' will be in Sam's Club, in time for US Mother's Day, [May 12th] If I was in the US, I'd know what to do in order to make people aware that it can be bought from there. But from England I'm definitely working in the dark! Apparently it's considered quite a coup for it to be stocked by Sam’s Club, but I want to do my part to let people know it is there.

Why bother? Well it’s not to sell more books because they have taken a certain number and I don't suppose they'd re-order even if they sold out. But like Paul, I want to go ‘beyond the borders’ with my books, and get them into the hands of those to whom ‘God’ is just a vague idea.

With this as my goal, I’m praying for the hundreds of thousands of women in America, who would never go to a Christian bookstore or order a book directly from the publisher [ ] but who know about Sam's Club. This could be a very powerful opportunity to get ’It’s Just You and Me Lord’ into the hands of those for whom prayer is a mystery, and who have never thought that God wants to communicate with each one of us.

To make it fun, I’m asking people to take a photo of the book in Sam’s Club for which there will be PRIZES! More details soon. In the meantime:

If you live in America or have friends and family there could you let them know that ‘It’s Just You and Me Lord is available in Sam’s Club and would make a great gift? If you haven’t read it, Anne Bauman at Discovery House has 10 copies to give away – first come first served. email: with your postal address.

Do you have any networks through which you could spread the word? Your blog? Your Facebook page? A bible study group? A women's group in your church? This could make a tremendous difference, because publicity is mostly down to good old ‘word of mouth’. If each person who read this blog or the email I’ll be sending out, told five people and they in turn told five others – well do the maths!

I love the sign in the shop window which says:

‘We strive to do the impossible immediately. Miracles may take a little longer to achieve’!
This goal is beyond my powers to accomplish alone. Will you help to ‘achieve the miracle’?