Redefining Marriage

Here is a clip of a longer video I recently did as part of a discussion on the redefining of marriage.

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God works in mysterious ways, and over time

Question_Mark_1Have you ever wondered “why?” “Why me?” “Why not me?” “Why this?” “Why now?” “Why would God allow ______?”

If so, read on….

This is an excerpt from Aggie Hurst, Aggie: The Inspiring Story of A Girl Without A Country [Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1986]. Get the tissues…

In 1921, a missionary couple named David and Svea Flood went with their two-year-old son David, from Sweden to the heart of Africa—to what was then called the Belgian Congo. They met up with another young Scandinavian couple, the Ericksons, and the four of them sought God for direction. In those days of much tenderness and devotion and sacrifice, they felt led of the Lord to go out from the main mission station and take the gospel to a remote area.


This was a huge step of faith. At the remote village of N’dolera they were rebuffed by the chief, who would not let them enter his village for fear of alienating the local gods. The two couples opted to go half a mile up the slope and build their own mud huts.

They prayed for a spiritual breakthrough, but there was none. Their only contact with the villagers was a young boy, who was allowed to sell them chickens and eggs twice a week. Svea Flood — a tiny woman missionary only four feet, eight inches tall, decided that if this was the only African she could talk to, she would try to lead the boy to Jesus. And in fact, after many weeks of loving and witnessing to him, he trusted Christ as his Savior.

But there were no other encouragements. Meanwhile, malaria continued to strike one member of the little band after another. In time the Ericksons decided they had had enough suffering and left to return to the central mission station. David and Svea Flood remained near N’dolera to go on alone.

Then, of all things, Svea found herself pregnant in the middle of the primitive wilderness. When the time came for her to give birth (1923), the village chief softened enough to allow a midwife to help her. A little girl was born, whom they named Aina (A-ee-nah).

The delivery, however, was exhausting, and Svea Flood was already weak from bouts of malaria. The birth process was a heavy blow to her stamina. After seventeen desperate days of prayer and struggle, she died.

Inside David Flood, something snapped in that moment. His heart full of bitterness, he dug a crude grave, buried his twenty-seven-year-old wife and took his children back down the mountain to the mission station. Giving his newborn daughter to the Ericksons, he said, “I’m going back to Sweden. I’ve lost my wife, and I can’t take care of this baby. God has ruined my life.” With two year old David, he headed for the coast, rejecting not only his calling, but God himself.

Within eight months both the Ericksons were stricken with a mysterious illness (some believe they were poisoned by a local chief who hated the missionaries) and died within days of each other. The nine month old baby Aina was given to an American missionary couple named Berg, who adjusted her Swedish name to “Aggie” and eventually brought her back to the United States at age three.

The Bergs loved little Aggie but were afraid that if they tried to return to Africa, some legal obstacle might separate her from them since they had at that time, been unable to legally adopt her. So they decided to stay in the United States and switch from missionary work to pastoral ministry. And that is how Aggie grew up in South Dakota. As a young woman, she attended North Central Bible college in Minneapolis. There she met and married a young preacher named Dewey Hurst.

Years passed. The Hursts enjoyed a fruitful ministry. Aggie gave birth first to a daughter, then a son. In time her husband became president of a Christian college in the Seattle area, and Aggie was intrigued to find so much Scandinavian heritage there.

One day around 1963, a Swedish religious magazine appeared in her mailbox. She had no idea who sent it, and of course she couldn’t read the words. But as she turned the pages, all of a sudden a photo stopped her cold. There in a primitive setting in the heart of Africa was a grave with a white cross and on the cross was her mother’s name, SVEA FLOOD.

Aggie jumped in her car and drove straight to a college faculty member who, she knew, could translate the article. “What does this say?” she asked.

The instructor translated the story:

It tells about missionaries who went to N’dolera in the heart of the Belgian Congo in 1921… the birth of a white baby girl… the death of the young missionary mother… the one little African boy who had been led to Christ… and how, after the all whites had left, the little African boy grew up and persuaded the chief to let him build a school in the village.

The article told how that gradually the now grown up boy won all his students to Christ… the children led their parents to Christ… even the chief had become a Christian. Today (1963) there were six hundred Christian believers in that one village.

Because of the willingness of David and Svea Flood to answer God’s call to Africa, because they endured so much but were still faithful to witness and lead one little boy to trust Jesus, God had saved six hundred people. And the little boy, as a grown man, became head of the Pentacostal Church and leader of 110,000 Christians in Zaire (formerly the Belgian Congo).

At the time Svea Flood died, it appeared, to human reason, that God had led the young couple to Africa, only to desert them in their time of deepest need. It would be forty years before God’s amazing grace and His real plan for the village of N’dolera would be known.

For Rev. Dewey and Aggie Hurst’s twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, the college presented them with the gift of a vacation to Sweden. There Aggie met her biological father. An old man now, David Flood had remarried, fathered four more children, and generally dissipated his life with alcohol. He had recently suffered a stroke. Still bitter, he had one rule in his family: “Never mention the name of God because God took everything from me.”

After an emotional reunion with her half brothers and half sister, Aggie brought up the subject of seeing her father. The others hesitated. “You can talk to him,” they replied, “even though he’s very ill now. But you need to know that whenever he hears the name of God, he flies into a rage.”

Aggie could not be deterred. She walked into the squalid apartment, with liquor bottles everywhere, and approached the seventy-three-year-old man lying in a rumpled bed.

“Papa?” she said tentatively.

He turned and began to cry. “Aina,” he said, “I never meant to give you away.”

“It’s all right Papa,” she replied, taking him gently in her arms. “God took care of me.”

The man instantly stiffened. The tears stopped.

“God forgot all of us. Our lives have been like this because of Him.” He turned his face back to the wall.

Aggie stroked his face and then continued, undaunted.

“Papa, I’ve got a little story to tell you, and it’s a true one.

You didn’t go to Africa in vain. Mama didn’t die in vain.

The little boy you both won to the Lord grew up to win that whole village to Jesus Christ. The one seed you planted just kept growing and growing. Today (about 1964) there are six hundred African people serving the Lord because you and Momma were faithful to the call of God on your life.”

“Papa, Jesus loves you. He has never hated you.”

The old man turned back to look into his daughter’s eyes. His body relaxed. He began to talk. And by the end of the afternoon, he had come back to the God he had resented for so many decades.

Over the next few days, father and daughter enjoyed warm moments together. Aggie and her husband soon had to return to America—and within a few weeks, David Flood had gone into eternity.

A few years later, the Hursts were attending a high-level evangelism conference in London, England, where a report was given from the nation of Zaire (the former Belgian Congo). The superintendent of the national church, representing some 110,000 baptized believers, spoke eloquently of the gospel’s spread in his nation. Aggie could not help going up afterward to ask him if he had ever heard of David and Svea Flood. “I am their daughter.”

The man began to weep. “Yes, madam,” the man replied in French, his words then being translated into English.

“It was Svea Flood who led me to Jesus Christ. I was the boy who brought food to your parents before you were born. In fact, to this day your mother’s grave and her memory are honored by all of us.”

He embraced her in a long, sobbing hug. Then he continued, “You must come to Africa to see, because your mother is the most famous person in our history.”

In time that is exactly what Aggie Hurst and her husband did. They were welcomed by cheering throngs of villagers. She even met the man who so many years before, when she was less than a month old, had been hired by her father to carry her down the mountain in a soft bark hammock.

The most dramatic moment, of course, was when the pastor escorted Aggie to see her mother’s grave, marked with a white cross, for herself. She knelt in the soil of Africa, the place of her birth, to pray and give thanks. Later that day, in the church service, the pastor read from John 12:24:

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

He then followed with Psalm 126:5: “They who sow in tears shall reap in joy.”

(An excerpt from Aggie Hurst, Aggie: The Inspiring Story of A Girl Without A Country [Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1986].)

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Hearing God’s Voice in a Noisy World

If you missed it, watch the archived #I4JLIVE show I did yesterday on hearing God, slowing down, and discerning truth on @Innovate4Jesus.

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Ministry of presence

bonnell-baptismTen years ago (in an email dated January 29, 2004) I was asked by a close friend how to deal with a loved one who was in hospice and dying of cancer.   As you consider how to find “rest for your soul” in the midst of circumstances that we cannot control, I invite to consider a ministry of presence. No amount of casserole caravans or talk therapy could offer what the Spirit can deliver by His presence in and through you. Don’t worry about what you can “do,” just “be” who God calls you to be.
She asked me to post this for more to see and I share it with you today.

From: Carmen Fowler
Sent: Thursday, January 29, 2004 8:38 AM
To:
Subject: Ministry of presence
Dearest friend,
The truth is that this is one of those times when there’s just not much to say. Your presence, your faith in the face of ridiculous circumstances, your love…these are the opportunity that God has given you to be Christ’s ambassador to your friend.
Even when He walked the earth, Jesus didn’t heal everyone. Only God knows why. Its not our responsibility to make God’s case – or even defend His will. Its our job to walk with our friends through the valley of the shadow of death, confident that the light of Jesus of Christ shines in the darkness and the darkness will never overcome it.
Let Mendy have whatever feelings she’s having – if she’s doubting God or hating God or questioning God, He can handle it. You don’t have to defend Him, this is territory God knows far better than we.
Pray for endurance, pray that Mendy’s faith will endure. Read Romans 8. Read Psalm 23 and 139. Read Revelation 21. Read John 15 and 17. Let the Word of God wash over you and minister to you.
God wants to be present for you as you are present for Him in Mendy’s life. That’s the way it works. You are a conduit of His grace and mercy and love. And mostly that means that you never leave her nor forsake her. No matter how bad things get, your love and your presence remain steadfast. God never lets us go – in life nor in death – that’s the testimony your friendship needs and the witness you are uniquely positioned to bear to her now.
I am praying for you as you are present for her -
I am here for you always and in every way -
I love you my friend,
Carmen
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What is “inspiration” and who “inspires” you?

The first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, @FLOTUS tweeted:

You’re an inspiration to all of us, @MikeSamFootball. We couldn’t be prouder of your courage both on and off the field. -mo 10:21 AM – 10 Feb 2014″

The President re-tweeted her message later in the day. Later, the Vice President of the United States tweeted:

“Thank you to @MikeSamFootball & all of the players, @mizzoufootball & coaches at @mizzou – your courage is an inspiration to all of us.–VP— Office of VP Biden (@VP) February 10, 2014″

Who is this courageous person that inspires the President, Vice President and first lady?  A college football player who chose to publicly identify himself as homosexual.

The use of the word “inspiration” is what bothers me.

The original meaning of the word is “to draw in breath.” It was what happened to Adam when God animated Him from dust to life. The ruah or breath of God “inspired” human life.

That same breath inspires the Bible which is described as being “God-breathed.”

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. – II Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)

That which emanates from God is what authentically inspires life and truth.

That runs contrary to the declaration of the First Lady and the Vice President who feel inspired by an individual whose personal sexual proclivities put him in direct opposition to the inspired Word of God.

What inspires us is what animates, informs, drives, compels and impassions us.

I am inspired by the One who inspired life itself; the One whom alone has the Word of life and inspires the same.

What inspires you?

 

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The U.S. on Syria: Evidence of Moral Schizophrenia

No one with a beating heart denies that the use of chemical weapons is deplorable. No one denies that the death of innocent people at the hands of a despot is appalling. No one denies the legitimacy of the “red line” against such atrocities regardless of who drew it. But the outrage expressed by some over the murder of hundreds of Syrian children in their beds is moral schizophrenia for a nation that has chemically induced the deaths of more than 50 million of its own children — in the womb.

People in this nation and around the globe who acknowledge that human life begins prior to physical birth hear nothing but utter hypocrisy when members of an ardently pro-abortion Administration make statements of “moral outrage” about the deaths of hundreds of children. Out of one side of their mouth they declare that every child matters. While out of the other side they legislate, fund and fiercely defend on-demand abortion.

If every child really matters, then every child really matters. Period.  But that is not the ethic of America today. This is a nation who has declared, by her own actions, over the past 40 years that every child does not matter. The only children who matter are the children that fit into our personal financial and social plans.  Other children, 50 million of them, matter not — they are subject to chemical annihilation at our hands. Continue reading

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There are many Messiahs, but only one Christ

The recent story of a Tennessee judge changing the legal name of an infant whose parents took one another to court in a dispute over child support has garnered national attention. The questions raised by the secular media center around a parent’s freedom to name their child whatever they choose, religious liberty and the judicial overreach in this particular case. But the deeper question might be: “What compels a person to name a child Messiah?”

According to the Social Security Administration, the use of the title “Messiah” as a name for children — both male and female — has grown in popularity in recent years in America. Some speculate that the rise in popularity can be attributed to the fact that rapper Clifford “T.I.” Harris, who is featured in a reality T.V. show, named his child “Messiah Ya’ Majesty Harris.”  In terms of parental role models, if young Americans are modeling themselves after Harris, it is notable that he has six children by three different women. Using titles for names is something he’s known for. In addition to Messiah Ya’ Majesty, Harris has sons named King and Major.

A generation from now there are going to be many adults who bear the name Messiah in our culture. But there are already many people who “claim” to be Messiah, which may be cause for greater concern.  There are at least 14 people alive today who claim to be the Messiah, either the second coming of Jesus, God in flesh, or who personally believe they bear the responsibility to save humankind.

Continue reading

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Miss Manners and hell: Don’t ask if you don’t want to know

In our postmodern and pluralistic world, the intersection of etiquette and religion can present challenges for the person who wants to be both polite and truthful.

Indeed, the Apostle Paul tells us to “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:6 ESV).

But, when it comes down to it, truth must not be sacrificed on an altar of politically-correct etiquette principles.

That’s why I enjoyed reading a “Miss Manners” column last week, where Judith Martin deftly answered a question from a reader who took offense at a friend. It seems the “guilty” friend had given an honest answer to a question about hell — a question which was asked to her by the now-offended friend!

Here is the woman’s question:

I have a genuine fascination with cultures and religions that are not my own. I know it is incredibly rude to pester people about this, so I usually find answers to my questions online or in books.

However, a somewhat close friend of mine shared a mutual curiosity about religion, and we had an interesting conversation about our (very different) faiths. Curious about the concept of Hell, I asked her, “If I was a good person all my life, a kind, giving, completely unselfish person, yet someone who believes differently, would I go to Hell?”

She told me in no uncertain terms that I would. Was this rude of her? Logically, I know I asked for it. But it felt as though she was telling me I was going to Hell for having a different religion.

Should I be offended? Must I avoid the topic of religion at all times in the future? I know that it is a largely personal and inflammatory topic, but I am eager to have open and honest conversations about it. Is this impossible?

Given that our culture is intolerant of any worldview which does not promote complete tolerance for any idea, I expected Miss Manners to side with “Gentle Reader” and give a rebuke to the friend who believes she is headed for eternal judgment. Continue reading

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