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Orphans of Zambia and Family Legacy Missions International

Pure Religion

James 1:27

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (ESV)

250,000!

A few weeks ago, my small group from my church joined other believers to pack food.  I had no idea what to expect, nor did I have any idea what kind of food we would be packing, how it would work, or even who was going to be fed.  I did know it had something to do with the country of  Zambia.  We arrived in the mid-afternoon as part of the last shift of believers who had volunteered to pack food on this particular Saturday.  I was amazed at the portable, efficient assembly lines that had been set up in this church sanctuary as hundreds of believers took plastic bags, filled them with vitamin packs, soy protein, rice and dehydrated vegetables with the speed and efficiency that would make any manufacturing line supervisor proud.  Not only was this process efficient, we actually had a blast packing the food.  The laughter and friendly competitiveness of the groups was absolutely contagious.  We finished our shift in about 1&1/2 hours and the end result of that day’s work was 250,000 bags of food, not much larger than a king size bag of Doritos in a vending machine, packed and ready to ship to Zambia through Family Legacy Missions.  Each bag was enough food to sustain 6 people for one day.  I don’t know if I’ve ever been more excited about any work I’ve ever done than packing food that Saturday afternoon.

Ashamed

Yes, I was excited having been part of the effort to provide 250,000 meals, but I don’t know if I’ve ever been more ashamed as well.  You see, the food that we packed was barely even recognizable as anything that we would consider food in the United States.   It looked more like a bag of garden fertilizer than anything we would consider eating.  The Holy Spirit was assaulting my heart with conviction, not just because of how amazingly blessed I am, living in the U.S. with a ridiculous abundance of every imaginable kind of fresh food that we could ever desire that I simply take for granted.  I was weighed down heavily with conviction because of the ungrateful attitude which I so often displayed when the food in the pantry or the refrigerator wasn’t exactly to my liking.  I was weighed down with conviction because of the abundance of things that I own that had become so important to me, and yet I still wasn’t satisfied.  I was weighed down with conviction because of the lip service that I have given to helping widows and orphans in their distress, but hadn’t really even gotten my hands dirty to actually help the most vulnerable.  Yes I had given a little money occasionally and felt like I had done my part.  The Holy Spirit was telling me that I was lying to myself.

1 in 6

This food that we had packed was going to be used to feed orphans in the country of Zambia.  I’m sure you think that you understand the kind of suffering that takes place in countries like Zambia.  I thought I did, but I couldn’t have been more uninformed.  You see, there are 12 million people in Zambia.  Primarily because of extreme poverty and HIV/AIDS, half of those are under the age of 16.  86% of the people of Zambia live on less than $1 per day.  The most vulnerable of the poor of Zambia are the more than 1 million orphans, or 1/6th of the population under the age of 16.  They are starved, beaten, raped, and used as sex slaves, not just by abusive strangers, but also by their own extended families: aunts, uncles & step parents who are supposed to care for them.

The Graphic Truth

I’ve attached a link below to a video that says it all too effectively.  I’ve watched it numerous times and I still can’t watch it without weeping.  Family Legacy Missions not only takes care of the overwhelming physical needs of these children, but through the provision of food, shelter and safety, they share the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to these that are the most vulnerable, so that along with the redemption of their physical dignity, they are seeing the redemption of their souls!  Watch the video and pray how God can use you to practice pure religion.

Blue Like Jazz: the movie

Since Blue Like Jazz, the movie, has recently been released, I think it’s important that Christians are reminded of the message of the book in order to have a solid framework if they choose to see the movie. When the book Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller, hit the shelves it became a great success with people who were looking for an answer to the ho-hum, moralistic, self-esteem focused, need-based gobbledygoop that was the dominate culture in western, church-growth evangelicalism.  The big problem with the book, however, is that Donald Miller’s postmodern, relativism that he attempts to substitute for biblical spirituality misses the mark completely as to the problem with the modern church.  Here is an excellent review by Shane Walker of 9MARKS that hits the nail on the head:

Blue Like Jazz

By Donald Miller

A Review by Shane Walker

Donald Miller would like to introduce you to “Christian spirituality.” If you’re a Christian, he wants you to consider a less dogmatic and stodgy way. And if you’re a nonbeliever, he would like to introduce you to Jesus through Christian spirituality. But first he must introduce himself. He just wants you to know that he likes you, and if you were to meet, he would listen to your story. He even thanks you for listening to his story right there at the end of the book. Jesus is of course the same way. He likes you, wants to listen to your story, and wants you to hear his.

Blue Like Jazz is Don’s story—and one is immediately on a first name basis with Miller. It’s about his experiences leading up to his arrival at “Christian spirituality,”…(click here to continue reading).

The Gospel?

I love God’s word.

I love His word because it is the only dependable, objective, veracious literature ever written, or that ever will be written.  I love God’s word because it is the complete guidebook for living the human life.  I love God’s word for it is the message of life.  I love God’s word for it is the Gospel.  It doesn’t just contain the Gospel, it is the Gospel!  Whether I’m studying the law in the Old Testament or the atonement in the New Testament, I’m studying the Gospel.  The law shows me my disease, the atonement shows me the cure.  My pastor put it this way:

“The law is holy and it’s divine, in that it’s the holy, divine, diagnostic tool that lets us know that something’s wrong, but the law will never heal you, never!…the law is diagnostic, but Jesus Christ is the cure.”

“…when Christ imputes to us His righteousness and takes from us…God’s wrath towards us…Jesus is the diagnostic now…you are set free to pursue God and pursue Christ because [now] the diagnostic isn’t always telling you you’re too sick and you’re too nasty to come before Him.”  (Matt Chandler, February 26, 2012, “The Diagnostic and the Cure” http://www.thevillagechurch.net/resources/sermons/)

Without the law, I wouldn’t understand or appreciate the atonement.  Without the atonement, the law would simply cause me to be hopeless, for I could never live up to that standard!

This is precisely why I love all of God’s word and precisely why doctrine, or dogma, is so important.  The entirety of scripture and the doctrine derived from scripture is how I understand the Gospel and all of its ramifications.   You can’t appreciate the implications of sin without understanding the righteous character of God.   You can’t fully understand the implication of imputed righteousness without understanding the implication of imputed guilt.  You can’t separate the atonement from the law.  I once heard a country preacher put it this way: “…you have to get ’em lost before they can be saved.”  Of course, we recognize that it’s the Holy Spirit who convicts the elect of their sin, but the  point is that the whole scripture teaches the Gospel and it is necessary to understand and to study the scripture, and thoroughly and consistently communicate the scripture to the lost, for the Holy Spirit works through the communication of the scripture.  This is why 2 Timothy 3:16 says:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (ESV)

Unfortunately, the message that has become the standard for more and more churches is the “self-help” gospel:  life isn’t what you want so accept the love of Jesus and he’ll make everything OK.  You’ll feel better about yourself, you’ll make more money, your kids will be good and they’ll associate with other good kids and you’ll have the “Father Knows Best” life.  I heard it communicated this way at a funeral a few years ago: “Let Jesus permeate your life.”  This was as close as the pastor came to communicating the Gospel.  The whole message was about how great the deceased person had been and that she couldn’t do it on her own, she had Jesus to help her along the way.  He could have substituted Budha, Krishna or any other false god and the message would have been exactly the same.

This is not to say that we must offer a survey of systematic theology before the lost are saved, but we should communicate the basics of the Gospel:

  • There is a standard set by God
  • No man is capable of meeting that standard
  • The consequence of missing that standard is death, which includes separation from God & eternal punishment
  • God himself sent Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten son, the perfect, sinless sacrifice to incur the consequence of our sin through death on a cross as our substitute, which completely paid the price, as evidenced by the bodily resurrection of Christ on the third day
  • The response to which is repentance & faith in Christ alone as the complete payment for our sin and the one who keeps and perfects us forever.
  • The result of repentance and faith in Christ alone is a new life; this new life is always evidenced by change as each, individual believer grows in the grace and knowledge of Jesus through the study of the scripture and the consistent fellowship with other believers as he is empowered by the Holy Spirit.  This changed life is a life of grace and freedom, not that you should sin that “grace may abound,” but freedom to respond in obedience to God and His word out of  love and gratitude, in order that we may glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

You notice there’s no promise of prosperity, a good job or even a happy family.  In fact, if you truly follow Christ, your spouse might leave you, you might lose your job and your children might think you’re nuts!  The promise is that God will keep us forever and He will give us the grace and strength to persevere through anything that comes our way.  Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever!

Why Are We Surprised?

Little Lupe

We have a puppy named Lupe who has truly stolen our hearts.  Lupe is all of 5 pounds and shouldn’t grow any larger than her current size.  Lupe is what is commonly called a “designer dog” which really means that she is a mixed breed.   I’m convinced that at some point in the recent past, some enterprising individual owned a pure bred dog who accidently mated with another breed and the owner had this great idea that they could convince potential customers that this was desirable, called it a designer dog and used that logic to charge a special fee for what used to be called a mutt.  Thankfully, our designer dog was given to us by a family who was simply looking for a good home for Lupe.  I would call her a mutt, but officially she’s a ChiPoo.  Yes, you guessed it: Lupe is half Chiuaua and half Poodle.  She is quite affectionate, but she is also quite spunky, in spite of her diminutive stature.  She plays with our 50 pound German Shorthaired Pointer with complete abandon and usually initiates the play.  One of her best qualities is her warning bark when a stranger is in the yard.  Unlike most small dogs, Lupe is not a “yipper” – you know what I mean, that horrible, annoying, shrill yip that goes on and on.  No, Lupe just gives out a single, deep “uff” when she thinks something is amiss.  Of course, Lupe has her faults and she comes with all the challenges of owning a puppy.  Potty training is always the biggest task, but that came as no surprise since this isn’t our first rodeo when it comes to being around puppies, and there are plenty of books available on the subject.  It would be foolish of us to expect a puppy to be potty trained or to act like a mature, fully trained dog.  She is a puppy, after all, and we certainly expect her to act like a puppy, which brings me to the point of this post: why are we so often surprised when unbelievers act like unbelievers?

I recently had to work through a difficult work situation which included, among other things:

  • an executive who found fulfillment in humiliating people in public
  • selfish/self-centered actions at the local region
  • an employee intentionally spreading false rumors and accusations for personal gain
  • an employee intentionally deceiving his manager
  • employees engaging in conspiratorial actions against a manager for selfish gain
  • these same employees making personal accusations against others because they weren’t part of the conspiracy
  • etc., etc., etc.,

I found myself shocked by this kind of behavior, and was quite angry at these men until the Lord reminded me, through His word, that sons of Adam will always behave like sons of Adam and children of God should never be surprised at this fact and it should never affect the joy and contentment that a believer has in Christ Jesus.    Peter clearly warned us that trials were inevitable:

1 Peter 4:12-16

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be gladwhen his glory is revealed. 14  If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. (ESV)

The suffering about which Peter was warning is exactly what should be expected.  Earlier in the chapter, Peter says “…they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;” the very fact that unbelievers make disparaging remarks about you/me, or conspire against us is evidence that God is using us for His glory.  The reason that they are doing or saying evil against us should be because our refusal to participate in ungodly actions is an indictment of their sin.  If this is the case, then  Peter says that we should rejoice, not get angry, for it is a blessing.  This kind of experience should be reason for giving glory to God, not for becoming angry at unbelievers for acting according to their nature.  It should be an opportunity to share the Gospel, not by deed only, for that’s simply moralism and any number of worldly religions could take credit for that kind of behavior.  No, it’s critical that we don’t fall into the weak position that is so common in our day that claims that we can share the Gospel by simply behaving properly.  I’ve known people who seem to behave in a peaceful manner that give glory to Prozac when asked about their good behavior, rather than to God.  No, when unbelievers conspire against us and say evil things about us we should view this as the time to show them the ultimate care by telling the only truth that really matters: the Gospel of Jesus Christ!  Jesus told us how we are to react when facing persecution:

Matthew 5:42-44

43  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (ESV)

There is no other action that we can take that shows our love more to unbelievers, our enemies, than to lovingly tell them the truth of the Gospel and pray for them, while we demonstrate the peace and contentment in the midst of persecution that only comes from faith in Jesus Christ .

Peter does give a warning, however, which caused me to stop & re-examine my actions: 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.  I didn’t murder anyone or steal from anyone, but there were times when I acted in my flesh (evildoer) and I had to make sure that I had repented from that behavior and had asked forgiveness for those times when I didn’t respond in the Spirit.

Dear Lord, please help me to walk in your Spirit at all times, and especially during times of persecution and trial, that I may rejoice in the opportunity to see you glorified through my experience.  Please help me to pray for those who persecute me, my enemies, and to lovingly tell them the truth of the Gospel.  Amen

Should Christians Be Involved in the Political Arena?

Douglas Wilson writes about this critically important subject.

Greater Advantage of Lesser Opportunities

Written by Douglas Wilson

Monday, 26 March 2012 09:07 –

Is the biblical command to win souls for Christ inconsistent with awareness of and involvement in politics?  Should we abandon our political concerns and just “preach the gospel”? This concern for the primacy of evangelism, although well-intentioned, will ultimately destroy the very thing it considers most important.

Paul urges that prayers be made for those in political authority. I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:1-4). The immediate result of such prayer…(click here to continue reading this post)

Urgent Ministry Opportunity: Kenya Kids Can is Literally Out of Food, Please help!

She's Hungry

If you’re not familiar with the work of Steve and Nancy Peifer in Kenya, you should know that they work with children for the sake of the Gospel and have established a ministry that feeds children & teaches them technology skills.  They are quite literally out of food for this school term and need your help.  Please watch the YouTube video below, and go to Kenya Kids Can.  Once there, scroll down to Financial Support and click on the online giving site of Africa Inland Mission if you sense God leading you to help.  At the very least, keep this ministry and these children in your prayers.

7 Scripture Texts About Evangelism from Challies.com

I find it tremendously valuable to have my prayers guided by Scripture. As I pray about sharing the gospel with others, or as I pray for those who do not yet know the Lord, there are many passages from the Bible that can give focus and direction. Here are just a few of them. Read more of this wonderfully simple post on evangelism here.

Vestiges of Rome?

OOPS!

As Easter approaches, I thought that it would be appropriate to bring up the topic of “church holidays” as they are called.  Specifically, the observance of Lent has been on my mind & heart the last several weeks.  Several reformed congregations officially recognize the “Season of Lent” and encourage their members to observe this “season”.  I don’t know about others, but I’m very uncomfortable with the reintroduction of observances that were a yoke of legalism on believers, instituted as a natural result of the false gospel that taught (and still teaches) that Christians can and must perform some kind of work to keep their salvation.  I can’t help but think of men like Zwingli of Zurich, a champion of the reformation, who openly stood against the oppression of Rome by opposing the observance of Lent, which culminated in the Affair of the Sausages in 1522.  While Zwingli certainly wasn’t the perfect theologian, he was one of the earliest reformers who was eventually killed (along with 24 other protestant pastors), quartered & burned by the army of Rome for his cry of Sola Scriptura.  Although Calvin & Zwingli weren’t in unison on many issues, Calvin also opposed the observance of Lent and, in fact, called it a corruption.  The authors of the Westminster Confession of Faith (the “divines”) would have considered the church sanctioned observance of Lent to be:

“…according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan…” WCF 21.1

Of course, many/most of the reformed congregations with which I’m familiar make the observance voluntary, but the fact that they officially recognize this observance as a “sanctioned” church season seems to be opening the door to the same errors that corrupted the church in the early centuries after Christ’s ascension.  I think my father-in-law said it best when I inquired about his opinion of this observance:

“…Paul said it perfectly in Romans 14:5-8 and also in Colossians 2:16-22 and the scathing denunciation of Galatians 4:10,11–YOU OBSERVE DAYS AND MONTHS AND SEASONS AND YEARS. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.”

May we walk in the grace and freedom that was afforded us by Christ’s perfect sacrifice!

Sola Scriptura!

Link

Tim Challies: The Humblest Words

Paul was a humble man. To read of his life and to read his letters is to encounter the testimony of a man who had been utterly captured by pride until the Lord set him free. Free from the captivity of pride he could now say, “Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” He spent his life among sinners, he labored to convince sinners of grace, he turned men over to Satan so they would learn not to blaspheme, and still he could say that he, he himself, was the chief of sinners. He looked to his own heart, to his own life, and declared, I am the greatest sinner I know…continue reading from The Humblest Words

(Re-blogged from www.challies.com)

Wonderful post on how God utterly obliterates our sin through our savior’s sacrifice.

Chief of the least

Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity
And passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession?
He does not retain His anger forever,
Because He delights in unchanging love.
He will again have compassion on us;
He will tread our iniquities under foot.
Yes, You will cast all our sins
Into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18-19)

As we saw in the book of Hosea yesterday, God doesn’t mince His words when dealing with our sin in Scripture.

The biblical metaphors in Micah all point to the utter finality of God’s indictment of sin. Through Jesus Christ, God will “tread our iniquities underfoot.” This vivid picture is of God stomping a mud hole in our sin (not us!) and walking it dry. To trample or tread over an enemy is to utterly destroy it and lay waste to it. It’s the image of an army in battle defeating its nemesis…

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