Answering The Call is an international missions organization dedicated to reaching people in difficult to reach places.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Trump Card

I like playing Spades. In fact, I am the best Spades player I know. My wife may disagree with me at this point, but she is wrong. Somewhere deep down, she knows it. My favorite play in Spades is when I have no clubs and she leads with her Ace of Clubs. I enjoy casually tossing my two of Spades to trump her club. I enjoy watching her try to play it off when the reality of her frustration cannot be hidden.

One of my heroes, Pastor Desire from Congo, has been around some recently. He came to bring Julie home. This is a little girl who has been a victim of war in east Congo. A year ago, she was in the states to receive needed specialized surgery. Her host family fell in love with her, and now she has come home to be with them forever.

After being in the states for nine months, she returned to the unsafe environment where she started, deep in the bush of Congo. It was from here that my hero, Pastor Desire, rescued her. My hero left his responsibilities of leading ten congregations, two feeding centers, and a major construction project to go locate and rescue this one little girl. He spent seven weeks trekking through countless villages and forests filled with rebel soldiers.

At the face of it, it doesn’t make sense. My question to my hero when he arrived victoriously in America with his prize was, “Why?” Why, in the face of danger, inconvenience, and at the neglect of heavier responsibility, go after the one? When I asked my “why” question his answer was simple. With some dismay at my silly question, he answered quietly, “I love Julie.”

Do you see it? Love is the trump card. Love provides the solution to many unanswerable questions. Why would God come chasing after you and me? Why pay for charter planes to take the gospel to un-reached people groups in Africa? Why expend the resources it has required to create a place of rest and refuge for pastors who have suffered in difficult places in the world? Only love makes this make sense. Love is the Trump card.

The great thing about this game is that all of us who are His, find ourselves in possession of this trump card. The card can be played in a multitude of ways. I am learning it is usually played in humility. It is played in the form of forgiveness. We can play it in almost any situation because it has been played for us.

As you play it, play it with humility, but also play it with joy. This defeats our enemy. It’s a trump card. When we play it, He can’t win. His goal to steal, kill, and destroy is defeated. I have even seen him get up from the table and walk away at the point the card is played knowing that the game is over.

I think I am going to start looking for opportunities to play. May you also find many such opportunities.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Can It Be True?

What girl doesn’t like a good chick flick? My daughter and I have certainly seen our share of them. I won’t mention any names, but, I even know a few guys who like a good chick flick every now and then. There is no shame in this. I confess that I like a good guy movie every once and a while. My all time favorite movie is Gladiator, and despite what my husband says, it’s not merely because Russell Crowe stars in it.

Lately my favorite genre of chick flicks has had to do with weddings. I seem to be inundated with them as of late; my daughters, a niece, a cousin, and in a few short months, a longtime friends' daughter is getting married. With romance in the air, my daughter and I have watched several chick flicks having to do with weddings. Most recently I watched 27 Dresses, where the perpetual bridesmaid describes her favorite moment in a wedding: watching the groom as the bride enters. Typically all eyes are on the bride when she enters. This was definitely the case when my daughter married several months ago. As she entered to walk down the isle, my eyes were locked on her.

I attended a wedding several weeks ago, and, as tradition would have it, when the bride entered, everyone stood and all eyes were on her. However, I decided to break tradition and keep my eyes on the groom. I wanted to see his face when he saw her. I wanted to imagine what he would feel as he caught his first glimpse. I fixed my eyes, determined to watch only him. I knew the moment he saw her. His eyes lit up. A smile broke out on his face, a grin from ear to ear. His body even seemed to move a bit with anticipation of her arrival to his side. His eyes were locked on her. His chest seemed to grow a bit, as if he was the man in the room getting the big prize. And he was!!

I was swept away with emotion. In that moment it was as if I were standing outside of the room watching the painting of a picture on a canvas that was so real and lifelike. God whispered to my heart, “That is how I feel about my bride.” I wish I could communicate exactly all that I saw in those moments. What was especially highlighted to me was the intense love the groom had for the bride. I cannot fathom it. We spend so much of our time trying to figure out how to please God, how to figure Him out, how to be better, how to be right, and on and on it goes. But in that moment, when my eyes were locked on the groom, all I saw was intense love. Not our love for Him, but His love for us. WOW!

Oh, how I wanted to capture that moment to make it a reality from which I would live out my life forever. My eyes fixed on the groom, seeing His face smiling upon me, His eyes locked on me, anticipating me with intense love, realizing I am His prize. Can this be true?!!! I asked God this very question. “Is this true? Am I your prize? Do you smile upon me? Do you really look at me as that groom looked upon his bride?” He led me to Hebrews 12. “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

What was the joy set before Him? In a nutshell, we were the joy on the other side of that cross. He endured the cross, scorning its shame so that He could open a way of salvation to the chief of sinners, pardon the guilty, purify the unclean, elevate the lowly, make peace between man and God. We were His prize. The sin that so easily entangles refers to the sin that is always presenting itself to us, thwarting in every direction, hemming us in on every side, a well fortified wall. I can’t help but wonder if the sin that so easily entangles is the sin of unbelief. It is spoken of often in the book of Hebrews and is the antithesis of faith, which is what the preceding chapter is all about. The besetting sin of unbelief. Unbelief of what? That God was totally satisfied in the sacrifice of His son. That we can’t add to it. And when one believes in faith, in the completion and perfection of this sacrifice, he is made new. Unbelief that He really loves us, intensely loves us. That He smiles upon us. That He sees us as pure, spotless and beautiful. That He enjoys us. That He anticipates our presence.

When I fix my eyes on Jesus and the love He demonstrated toward me on the cross, rather than what I need to do in order to be right with Him, I live differently. The more I apprehend His marvelous grace, the more I crave His presence. Focusing on what He did, instead of what I need to do, inspires me and motivates me to live as He says that I already am. It is not about what we do or need to do. It is about what He did. Our role is to respond. Run the race before you, fixing your eyes on Jesus, not getting tangled up in your own religious efforts to reach Him, but instead believing the truth, that out of His intense love He made a way for you to stand before God!

Jude 24, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority before all time and now and forever. Amen.”