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

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Gift

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given...can we stop right there. Through the prophet Isaiah we get a glimpse, a peak under the tent as it were, to Who our Redeemer will be and in fact, now has become.

In a world where marriages fail and families fall apart; where conventional wisdom is anything but conventional, and certainly not common, we have been offered a Wonderful Counselor through the person of Jesus Christ. For not only does His Word offer good counsel (wisdom) to us, but Christ alone was and is intimately acquainted with the counsels of God from eternity.

In a world that has no heroes, where some feel they need to defend and spread their beliefs even if it means killing others, we have been offered a Mighty God; for Christ and Christ alone is able to save to the uttermost and it’s done by simply offering it to us.

In a world where everything is temporal; where Madison Ave. designs us to be discontented, we have been offered an Everlasting God, the Son, One with the Father, from everlasting to everlasting.

And in a world of confusion and uncertainty; where there are wars and rumors of wars, we have been offered The Prince of Peace Who is our Peace.

There are those in our world who think they are enlightened but in fact, have only become accustomed to the darkness. So, as was posted in our local airport, “In a city aglow with light, only You offer the Light of the World.”

So, unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given… and we are most grateful.

Bill Lewison
ATC Board Member

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Remember, His Kingdom Has Come

Have you ever noticed that when the Kingdom of God is advancing there is always opposition? Well, I will tell you that this last trip to Congo was no exception.

Having traveled a lot in the past few years, you begin to expect “normal” travel delays or inconveniences. However, as we arrived in Kamembe, a small town on the border of Rwanda and Congo, we began to sense something more than travel inconveniences. After stepping off the plane and meeting our contact, Bishop Desire, he tells us that the visa requirements for entering the country had changed within the last week. He indicated that it might be difficult to get in. Knowing this, we crossed the border to see if there might be some grace that would allow our entrance into Congo. As we arrived at the immigration office, I recognized the man behind one of the desks. Maybe some conversation with him would persuade him to let us in. After much conversation and Bishop Desire making his pleas we proceeded back to Rwanda to spend the night while Desire went through the process of contacting the Chief of Immigration to resolve the situation. At this point, I’m texting and emailing everyone about the situation and asking them to pray that our visas will be granted. In a situation like this a seasoned team is a bonus and I was thankful to have one. They took everything in stride as we settled down for an unexpected evening in Rwanda. As we set on the back patio of the hotel, we gazed across the 200-foot stretch of river that separated us from the prize, Congo.

To lighten things up, I told Desire we could just take one of the small fishing dugouts across the river and we would be in. He said with a little sarcasm that for people like us that would not be wise. So with that being said, we closed the evening out with some unexpectedly good onion soup, worship, and prayer.

As the morning broke, we were hoping Desire had good news. As we are checking out, one of our team members was coming down the back stairs of the hotel and tripped, fell and broke a window cutting open his arm. God’s grace was definitely protecting the fall because the cut that he obtained was from the concrete stairs and not the glass in the window. By the time we bandaged him up, Desire arrived and informed us that we should be able to get our visas.

Again, we proceeded across the bridge and up the hill a second time towards the immigration office. By the way, we started traveling on Sunday morning around 6 am. and it is now Wednesday morning around 9 am.

After the conclusion of our first training session, Desire leaned over to me and said, “I know now why it was so difficult for you to get in.” You could sense the presence of God all through the room with hope and encouragement pouring from the faces of the 30 missionaries, pastors and elders.

Our goal for this trip was to continue training the leaders on story telling the scriptures as a means of planting churches and spreading the Gospel to all of Congo and beyond, like in the book of Acts. January of this year I led a team that taught eight stories from creation to the coming of Christ. At the end of that trip, we did an outreach to a village where there the presence of the Church was minimal. The pastors actually acted out and told the stories we had taught them. A crowd of about 75 to 100 people gathered around in the middle of a banana plantation to hear the stories. At the end, almost all of them stepped forward to receive Christ as Savior.

As we returned this time, testimony was given of how the church in this village was growing having baptized 15 to 20 in the last 6 months.

When the Kingdom of God advances, expect that there will be sparks and the enemy will try to discourage us in every possible way. However, as we stand firm, as Paul writes about in Ephesians 6:10-21, we see His Kingdom advance with His presence coming in new followers who will be witnesses of His grace and truth.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hidden Treasures

Before leaving this past summer for Central America I did something I always do prior to leaving for a trip: put my jewelry in our safety deposit box. It was the day before I left. Along with packing and a million other errands, going to the bank to ensure safe keeping of my treasures was squeezed into this jam packed day. I came home and thought to myself, “I should hide the safety deposit box key.” So, I did just that.

The next day off I went for my 3 month stint in Central America. The problem came when I arrived home and couldn’t remember where I had hid the key.

I searched the house frantically. I emptied drawers, looked under rugs, I even retrieved my ladder from the basement to look in the places where I couldn’t reach. Now, it occurred to me that I never got the ladder OUT to hide the key; however, that mattered not one-ioda because I was desperate! I wanted my jewelry. I called the bank and explained my dilemma. They told me I would have to pay a nice price to bust open the box. So, I returned to my search. I got out the ole' ladder.

While on top of the ladder, searching in paraphernalia I didn’t even know I had, the Lord began to draw some parallels. I realized this is what I do many times in life when I don’t have the answers to something I want answers to. I analyze things to death, exhaust every possible scenario, tilt my head towards heaven and beg the Lord in desperation because, surely HE HAS THE ANSWERS! I usually include in my plea, “Why aren’t you telling me the answer? Don’t you know that I am seeking you for the answer?” I drive myself crazy and probably the Lord as well.

God has gotten a lot of mileage out of this parallel. I knew standing on top of that ladder that He did in fact know where the key was. I also knew He wasn’t going to show me where it was right then. At that moment it wasn’t about the key or the jewelry. He wanted to show me something about me and something about Him.

You see, God knows all that we don’t. He has the key to all of the questions locked up inside of us. There are things we want NOW that God says we can’t have until later. Things in our lives that have perplexed us for years are the things God has been molding and shaping into masterpieces one day to be revealed. The losses in our life are opportunities in His hands for our redemption. The delayed longings of our heart are the Lord’s joy to fulfill, in His time. He is not holding treasures FROM us; rather, He is holding them FOR us. ALL things are kept securely in the hands of our loving Father who knows exactly WHEN.

I have had to exercise discipline not to spend the money to go bust open the box. When I would think about the beautiful pieces of jewelry my husband has given me and long to be able to wear them, the Lord would remind me of the lesson He was teaching me that day on the ladder. I knew He would show me the key one day. So, I have been waiting.

Today, as I was getting something out of one of my drawers, one that I had explored during my frantic search, I found the key. I got so excited! I ran to put my jeans and flip flops on, threw up my hair, grabbed my keys, and got myself down to the bank. There were treasures to be had THIS day!

Joy

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Religion Kills

It has been said that there is nothing more dangerous than a religious man. The most vicious attacks are likely to come at the hands of the most religious. There is no life to be found in religion. Religion is form without power. Religion is man's attempt to reach God on his own merit or by his own formulas. Religion is at it's essence the expression of man’s ways; therefore, it is certain death.

As we visited the persecuted church in a particular part of India, I was reminded of Jesus’ teaching of this very concept. In John 16 He warns his disciples about things to come. He says, “The hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.” About a year ago in this part of India some 500 believers were killed. One of the ancient Hindu god’s is Kali, known as the goddess of dissolution and destruction. After getting drunk on the blood of evil forces she went on a killing spree and began destroying everything in sight. Some believe that the only way to appease this goddess is to offer a blood sacrifice.

It is not beyond imagination that these extreme Hindus chased believers into the jungle burning their homes (thinking that this “service to god”) believing this would be a sacrifice that would appease the destructive forces of Kali.

There is nothing more dangerous than a religious man. His thinking and his ways are twisted and will always bring destruction, not only to himself, but also to those around him.

I saw a new expression of religion today as we visited encampments of Christians who now have no place to live since this persecution began. As we drove to their encampment we observed about 75 families who had all gathered around the steps of a Pentecostal church building that had somehow been spared in the carnage. The people were living in makeshift tents made out of scrap plastic they had found. Their condition was obviously desperate. We prayed and listened to their stories. There was a strong sense of desperation among them. This was true of every place we visited, but in this place hopelessness poured from their eyes darkening all who ventured close.

As we drove away rain began to fall. I thought of those we had just seen. I imagined them huddled under torn plastic tarps in an effort to stay dry, as well as keep the little food and possessions they had from contamination. It occurred to me that perhaps as the rains came they would be able to find refuge and shelter inside the church building. I surfaced this notion with our kind guide. He gently told me, in a very Indian way, that this would not be the case. I pushed a little further, wanting to understand this paradox. He explained that the church building would not be used as a place of refuge because they held to the belief that it was inappropriate to sleep in the house of God.

Is that the most ridiculous thing you have ever heard?

Religion always is.

I suppose it can never be known how many of these three or four hundred homeless people will die because of the thread of religion the enemy has sown among them. Certainly some will die in the unsanitary conditions that could be resolved by simply opening the church doors and sleeping inside.

This mantra is not just true in India, it is true all over the world. I wonder how many are huddled on the steps of churches in the United States unable to enter because of religion. I wonder how many of them will die.

The kingdom of God is peace, joy and righteousness. As I write this, there is a deep sense of thankfulness for salvation apart from religion. To be honest, it has been a slow process that I am not sure is even complete. My thankfulness around the processes causes me to long for the people in India to be saved out of religion and into the freedom of the most irreligious love the world has ever known, Jesus. It makes me long to see friends back home saved from the certain fate of religion.

God take us beyond religion. Grant us the ability to see you free from the restraints of religion. Let us not be shackled by man’s ways but rather that we could fall into your strong arms of love. Help us God, to love in the same way you do and no longer be religious persecutors. Show us our religious thinking that we are unaware of. God, don’t let us die this way because certainly we know, Religion Kills. Take us to a place where religion dies and Jesus comes alive.

David

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Mom

The heart of a mom is an amazing thing to me. It is a work of God. I have watched it operate in Joy with our three children. I am amazed by the deep stirrings of love for our children that I sometimes sense in her. I am a Dad. I love my children, but it is not the same as a mom’s love. As our children have gotten older, one of them has even left her “poor ole father”, I have witnessed that a mom’s heart remains unchanged. I sort of understand it when it comes to babies but, what I did not understand was that same heart seems to beat for teenagers and even adult children.

I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised. I was the recipient of such love. My mom projected to me those same deep stirrings of love. She was fiercely loyal. She saw my faults probably more clearly than anyone but this did not mean that others were free to comment on the faults she had long ago observed. There was nothing that was too good for her boys. A mom’s love is incredible in its scope.

I recently returned from India. One particular night I prayed with a mom. We saw a lot of joy in the midst of all the persecution in this region of India. This was not the case at this particular home with this particular mom. She was the last person we went to pray with. She was of small stature and by the appearance of the house she seemed to be just barely getting by. What I remember most were her eyes. There was a deep sadness in them. Her eyes and her posture reflected very little life. She hardly responded to our attempts at a traditional greeting. There was not even the attempt of a smile. Don’t misunderstand, she wasn’t hard, she was broken.

We went to pray with her because she had recently lost her son. He was killed in the uprising of the persecution last year. A demon possessed mob of Hindu worshippers paraded in the street in front of her house. As they marched things began to turn violent and the attack was on. The three hundred Christians in this village began to flee to the jungle. Miraculously most survived, but not this mom’s son. As he ran down the same street he had played on as a boy, he was shot in the back. He fell over dead and this mom’s world was broken. It has been a year now. Those who killed this mom’s son, as well as others, have never been brought to justice in Hindu courts. After a year this mom still sits in front of her house and looks down that same street with sad eyes.

As I travel the reality of persecution is so widespread that it has become almost institutional. In some circles the idea of martyrdom has become almost romanticized as warriors fading in a blaze of glory. For this mom it is institutional and certainly is not to be romanticized. It is simply sad. This mom’s heart, like the heart of my children’s mom and like my mom’s heart, is amazing in its depth and quite frankly beyond my comprehension. This mom is not looking for religious platitudes and sympathy is of little value, she just wants her boy back.

I told her the Bible says there is a time to grieve, implying that grief doesn’t last forever; but then again, I am not a mom so what do I know. I told her the Bible says that martyrs will rise first and reign with Jesus. I asked her to picture this, her son reigning with Jesus one day. I think it helped a little, but only a little. Outside of the Lord there is no balm for her soul. That is not just a religious platitude, it is reality.

I also promised her that I would share her story so that people would pray for her. This seemed the most helpful to her. So, will you pray for a mom in rural India with sad eyes who is missing her boy?

David

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Truth and Zeal

Some years ago, while on an international flight from Tel Aviv to Frankfort, I saw a man sitting across the aisle reading what I thought was a Bible. Momentarily, I engaged the man in a conversation and the subject of what he was reading came up. I asked, “Is that a Bible you are reading?” He answered, “You might say that.” Bewildered by his answer, I asked, “Are you a Christian?” He replied, “Let’s say I am a Believer.”

In short order, I found myself involved in a long exchange with a resident of Haifa, in Israel, who was an ardent devotee of the Bahai faith. Bahaism is a unifying cult, which virtually accepts all the religions of the world as equal, and awards divine status to all nine of the so-called leading prophets of the world’s major faiths. Bahaism has its own prophet, Bahaullah, who is no more divine to them than other prophets but who has brought the “latest” message from the Great Divine Source to the world.

Needless to say, I could not remain silent as my fellow passenger extolled the virtues of his religion. So having invested about a half hour of polite attention, I shared with my conversational partner the message of salvation as the Bible presents it. I must acknowledge the Bahai disciple was attentive as I talked of Jesus, not as one of the great prophets, but as the only Son of God and sole Savior for all. When I asked this transplanted European if he could accept Christ as his Savior, he courteously declined.

When our plane landed in Frankfort, I had three hours to wait before my flight connection to the States. During those three hours, I made a number of stops: the restroom, a lunch counter, browsing some duty-free shop counters. It seemed everywhere I went the Bahai disciple was following me. Needless to say, I was at first uncomfortable with his pursuit. Frankly, his confrontations became irritating, but then it struck me, though his style was overbearing and counter-productive, his zeal could not be questioned. His approach would have negated any interest in his cult, if I had any, but the memory of his commitment obviously remains with me to this day.

By no means should we take a chapter from the cultist’s book on the art of witnessing, but we would do well to demonstrate how serious we are about attempting to reach our world for Jesus Christ. The cultists cannot “out-truth” us, but let’s not let anyone “out-zeal” us! It is that very truth and zeal which has David Fuller, Mike Massey and Mark Tippett in India at this moment. So the question for us all is, “Just how far will Truth and zeal take us, with what we call the Good News?”

Charles Fuller

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Favor

The book of Psalms can be seen in many ways. Some call it poetry. This would be an educated perspective. Some would see it as a glorified hymn book. This view is perhaps from the artsy crowd. I struggle with this one because I thought that songs were supposed to rhyme, and in Hebrew I am not sure that’s possible.

For a guy like me the book of Psalms is the meditations of a warrior and God’s revelation to warriors that will follow. I am at an age where I have been “holed up” in more than a few fox holes and at those points I need to hear what God has spoken to others in foxholes.
Recently a friend sent me a list of Psalms to read. As I have been reading through them, one in particular was accentuated and stands out. If you are stuck in a foxhole, or tired and weary from battle, what is it that you need? I find it is nothing that anyone other than God can give. I am finding that at these critical points I need knowledge of God’s favor. It’s not that God's favor doesn’t exist at other times; it is to say that at these critical times there is a special knowledge of it, experiential in nature, which is required. If nothing else, I need to know I have His approval.

In Psalm 90 David asks for the same. We can even see what this favor of the Lord will look like to him. In verse 17 David says, “Let the favor of the Lord be upon us...” He then says, “…and establish thou the work of our hands.” Do you see it? He is asking for God’s favor by way of God establishing what it is He had given him to do. I can relate to favor being displayed in this way. That’s what I want. I may never have great riches but I really desire that the vision and the work He has put in front of me would be successful. It is enough. I would see this as evidence of God’s favor.

I am happy to share that the end of our summer in Central America was punctuated with a huge exclamation point. I consider it as evidence of God’s favor and I am celebrating in it. In August, for the first time, pastors and church leaders came to the training facility that we have been building. They came for equipping and for retreat. This marks the beginning of a new era of ministry. It is awesome to finally be at this point. For me it is not enough that they merely came, but to really know that God moved in their lives is what I want and speaks as evidence of His favor. I was so excited to hear their comments about what God did. They left saying the following: (translated literally)

“This is a place where I met God real.”

“This place the Holy Spirit overcame me!”

“In this place I have experienced God and He has never felt so close to me.”

“In this place I found redemption in my family relationships.”

When I think back on all the work, all the money, and all the prayer put into this project, I see that God has moved just like He said He would and precisely as we have prayed. A member of the staff who hosted these leaders, and who has a long-term perspective of all of this, said, “After 7 years of worry and work, God brought these people here and redeemed them and told them in an intimate way how much He loves them. He showed up and encouraged them. He is faithful.”

God’s love and His favor is the essence of what battle weary warriors need. It’s what they need. It’s what I need. It’s what you need. And, to experience the favor of the Lord by way of Him establishing the work He has given us to do is the ultimate. Sometimes in war I think the fog of battle makes it difficult to step back and recognize victory. Once victory is recognized I believe celebration is in order. We can fight again another day.

David

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Generation of Promise

Our time in Central America is winding down. I am always a bit sad when our summer mission comes to a close here at the retreat center. Every year God proves faithful and teaches us so much about Himself. This year was no exception. Our discipleship program for young adults, Generation of Promise, was the highlight of my summer. What I saw God do in the lives of 16 young men and women fills my heart with joy beyond my ability to express. Perhaps having three children around this age makes me partial to this age-group. I have an unexplained compassion and love for this generation and I also know God is up to something big with them and I want to be a part of it. Here are a few snippets from some of their testimonies.

“The past several weeks at GOP have been a crazy ride. The Lord brought me revelation through the Holy Spirit and for the first time in all my years of knowing the Lord, I finally UNDERSTOOD 2 Corinthians 5:17 which says that in Christ I am a NEW CREATION, the old has gone and the new has come! I did not believe that my old self was crucified with Jesus on the cross and therefore I was undermining and doubting the power of what Jesus did there. I AM A NEW CREATION!” Kelsey

“While being on the mountain God revealed to me who I really am. Not who I thought I was or who the world told me I was, but who I am IN Him. He showed me that He IS GOOD. God showed me His love, telling me face to face that I am His favorite, His beloved, and His son.” Ben

"God taught me. He taught me about His kingdom being here and now; taught me what the true “good news” is; taught me to listen; taught me to speak His words; taught me the benefits of obedience. He taught me how to recognize His voice; a voice that keeps getting clearer. God blessed me.” Heather

"I had revelation of my identity in Christ and in the Kingdom of God and was able to entirely let go of my past. The final week, which we spent in Panama, was life changing in the sense that I felt the call to become a missionary back home and maybe one day abroad. This trip changed my life, changed my outlook on life, and changed my future.” Kirk

“I have learned more here in the past couple of days than I have my whole 14 years as a Christian. I have leaned how my Daddy sees me, experienced a true love relationship and have been equipped to fight the spiritual warfare battle that was once a hopeless defeat. Praise God and to Him belong all the glory.” Kloe

“I learned that God doesn’t love me any less because I’m a sinner. Nothing I can do can change the amount of love that God has for me. God wants to have a relationship with me before I start worrying about following His rules. I was always taught by the Church that a man must put his sin behind him before going to God. But the truth is the complete opposite! I came back a completely different person. The new me wishes to pursue God and His plan for my life.” Alex

“As the time progressed on the mountain my identity in Christ changed. I realized I was a prince in the kingdom of God. I realize I am God’s beloved child. I no longer have to beg and plead. I can just ask the lord and I will receive. That has made such a difference in my life. I am sure it will change the course of my life.” Michael

“It has been so amazing here! I have learned so much while I have been here. I am starting to see myself as the Lord sees me and it’s becoming a reality instead of just a thought. I am a new creation, I’m perfect in the Lords eyes, He loves me just the way I am. The Lord has become Papa to me.” Marlea

Thank you to everyone who held these young people up through prayer and intercession. Thank you to everyone who prayed for ATC as we ministered through out Central America. Thank you to everyone who continues to pray for us. Thank you to our board who has diligently watched over things while we have been gone. Thank you to our staff that has held down the fort. You are a blessing to us. You share in the reward of all that God accomplishes through this ministry. 1 Samuel 30:25 tells us, “…the share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” God bless you!

Joy

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ministry of Presence

“Let’s go minister to them simply by our presence.” It sounds odd does it not. Is this notion to assume that we are better than everyone else? Is the adoption of such a thought prideful and arrogant? Is it antithetical to the wise council of scripture that calls us to humility? How is it that our presence can be ministry?

I went to southern Sudan once. It was decided that we would visit an area where we had not yet been. We sent word ahead that we were coming with the hope that somehow arrangements might be made for our visit. I was also hoping that some key people in the area might change their schedules so that they could be there to meet us.

I arrived on a small airplane. As we landed I searched the landscape for some clue that our visit was anticipated. I noticed a small gathering of people on the grass landing strip below us. I sensed my body relaxing with the knowledge that word had made it that we were coming. I recognized that we would now have a place to sleep and may even have food to eat. I stepped off the plane feeling much more confident about the next few days.

There was a warm greeting from the receiving committee and a couple of English speakers in the group. We lingered on the airstrip. I began to wonder why. That question was soon answered as we began walking toward the village. Preparations had indeed been made and the final touches were being accomplished as we stood on the airstrip.

We began the 3 kilometer trek to the village. I began to hear calls of African worshipers and the hoots and hollers of an excited and energized village. It was as though time stood still and the only thing in focus was the present. The rape and pillage of their women and children was not even a distant memory. Their hunger pains ceased and no thought was given to survival. It was almost as if the harshness of the African sun gave way to a cool and gentle breeze. I found myself enjoying all of this immensely even though I could not fully comprehend it. We walked the entire 3 kilometers lined with a cheering crowd. As we approached the hut that was to serve as a meeting room, my enjoyment of the occasion began to turn to anxiety. I began to wonder what they wanted from me. Fear gripped me as I realized it would not be possible to meet their expectations.

I sat nervously as the leaders of this village gathered with me in the meeting hut. With great ceremony, appreciation was expressed for my visit. I was kind, but waiting for the “ask.” When it never came I began to explain that I had come with nothing on this trip; no food, no medicines, no money, not even promises. As I spoke they looked at me perplexed. The leader of this warrior tribe spoke, “We celebrate just that you have come. My people have suffered for years and we have prayed that God would send someone to see our suffering; someone to share in it with us. Now we celebrate because God has answered our prayers. He has not forgotten us.”

Now, tell me the ministry of presence isn’t powerful. It may not be all that is needed but it is out of our presence that all good things of the kingdom flow. Thousands found renewed faith that day simply because by our coming God proved himself to be real. Thousands that day found hope; hope that set itself up against the despair the enemy had sown in their lives.

Missions really isn’t complicated. It is merely our response to God’s simple injunction to go. I fear our culture has polluted the simplicity of our call by training us to focus on what we are going to do. It is not impossible for us to get lost in the doing to the extent we never go. Said another way, it’s really what the incarnation is all about. Think of it. God came in the flesh to dwell among us. The ministry of incarnation. Just as incredible, or maybe more so, He made it possible, by atoning and defeating sin and death, for us to constantly live in His presence. He sent to us the comforter, the Holy Spirit, so that He could remain constantly in our presence.
A friend recently reminded me in a gently way that the peace I was searching for would be found as I sought, not the plan, but the planner. Later that night as we worshiped on the mountain here in Central America, I forced myself to stop asking all the questions that have recently so filled my mind. Instead, I just began to tell God that I wanted Him and I wanted to be in His presence.

I am finding power in this ministry of presence. I am watching as answers to my questions begin to come into focus without me even asking them. Beyond that, to the extent I go to Him, I find a measure of peace regardless of circumstance. In short, I am seeing in a new way that he is in fact, everything. All emanates from Him. Being convinced that He is good, I am praying that He would fully swallow me up. Wishing you were here but, even gladder that He is!

David

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Glimpse of the Future

Some mornings when I wake up the future seems bright. Some mornings when the sun rises the future seems daunting. I suppose this is not so unusual and probably common to everyone. I assume this is due to the basic nature of the times which is uncertainty.

The first month this summer in Central America has been exciting for me. It has given me a glimpse into an uncertain future. The Lord has used it to answer at least some of the uncertainty that has to do with the future.

Our time here has been spent tweaking the final items on the punch list for the retreat center, as well as training and developing a group of ten young men. I have found these college-age-young-men to be refreshing. We have studied the Kingdom of God together. We have paid particular attention to our identity within this kingdom, and the privileges and responsibilities as citizens in this kingdom. The revolutionary and biblical notion that we are in this world but not of it takes time to flesh out, but a start was to be had. I see often in the west that we can get stuck at that point; happy to be citizens of the kingdom and basking in the glory of it all, without realizing that with great privilege comes great responsibility. This sticking point is often reflected in the west through consumerism that basically teaches it really is all about us.

In order to avoid so dangerous a sticking point, we also decided that with these young men we would facilitate a mission’s plunge into rural areas south of US. It was time to take the classroom “to the streets”, or “to the dirt roads” as the case may be. They would embark on a journey enjoying the privilege of kingdom citizenship and engaging in the responsibility of extending that kingdom into territories where it had yet to reach. They prayed leading up to this endeavor asking God where it was He was working so that they could join Him there. There was an amazing consensus among them. They were to head into a rural province in southwestern Panama.

Last Saturday morning, filled with high expectations, they pulled off for this somewhat unknown destination. On adventure or God! As they headed out to encourage, pray for, and bless a place that has not yet heard the good news of the kingdom, I shuttered realizing that I was witnessing the future.

The future is promising. The kingdom will grow. God is calling out warriors who will possess it with abandonment. The future for ATC is to be found in a generation, both young and old, who are being captured by a kingdom vision. And let’s not forget, not just the future, but the destiny of many has now been altered in a small province in southwestern Panama.

David

Friday, June 19, 2009

Father's Day

David and I did something we have never done in our entire 26 years of marriage. We remembered Father’s Day early. This past Sunday we rushed home off the mountain to call our dads to wish them a Happy Father’s Day. I think we woke one of them up. He seemed surprised and a little baffled at our call, but appreciative all the same. We were telling all the dads we saw that day Happy Father’s day. We convinced one of our staff guys that it was Father’s Day and he came down off the mountain to call his dad as well. We found out the next day that it wasn’t Father’s Day but Flag Day. I even felt bad that I had not wished Jason (ATC missionary) his first happy Father’s Day.

This is sort of like Jesus rebuking the Pharisees for not discerning the signs of the times. (Matthew 16:3) Just kidding. However, I believe there is a word in this for us. As God’s people we are called to walk in wisdom, understanding the times like the Sons of Issachar. 1 Chronicles 12:32 says, “…the Sons of Issachar were men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do.” Do I mean we are to predict the future? No. Do I mean that as believers we need to be discerning the times and have knowledge of how the Lord is leading? Yes.

No one knows the DAY or the HOUR; however, we are to perceive the season. Jesus tells us to be on the alert, that we must be ready. He gives us a parable about the prudent keeping oil in their lamps so that when the bridegroom arrives we will not be caught off guard. There is a day coming when it will be THE Father’s Day. A day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. In the meantime put on your armor, stand against the schemes of the enemy, stay alert, draw near to Jesus, be encouraged for the Lord is the rock of your salvation, and continue preparing the way for the Lord’s return.

Just a quick update about things here in Central America. We had the opportunity to participate in a baptismal service for the local church. David had the privilege of being a part of the baptism for the caretaker of the ATC equipping center. He and his wife have become believers since taking this job. We are having a great time with a group of 10 young men who came for the 4-week discipleship program, Generation of Promise, that ATC conducts. God is moving mightily. We feel blessed to be a part of what He is doing.

Bless your earthly father this Sunday and most essentially. bless your Holy Father every day you draw breath. He loves you more than you can imagine.

This post is written in honor of our dads. Happy Father’s Day Dad and Pops. Thank you for loving us. Thank you for teaching us the ways of our Heavenly Father. We love you!

David and Joy

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Way of the Ants

Well, here we are in Central America for our 6th consecutive summer. Our arrival has been typical to all of our other arrivals; broken down cars, lot’s of bug bites, beautiful flowers, delicious fresh tropical fruit, communication difficulties, and unexpected mishaps on the mountain. We’ve come to expect the unexpected. God seems to teach us new things every year. And some things He seems to re-teach us.
When I was here 6 years ago God taught me many things pertaining to the body of Christ through the observance of the Leafcutter ants. The other day I was having my morning coffee on the porch when I noticed a trail of Leafcutter ants next to me. I began recalling all that God taught me through these fascinating creatures. Proverbs 6 tells us to be wise and observe the ways of the ants. See if you can draw some parallels to the body of Christ in the way that the Leafcutter functions.

There are several varieties of ants within a Leafcutter colony. They each have their responsibilities and play different roles. For example, some of the ants stay together in large numbers around the food gathering columns. These ants are the first line-of-defense and continuously patrol the surrounding terrain attacking any enemy that threatens the foraging lines. There are other ants that do the actual cutting of leaves and bring them back to the nest. Some tend to and care for the fungus gardens. This is where they bring the leaves in order that they harvest into a fungus. There are worker ants that act as soldiers defending the nest from intruders and clearing the main trails of large debris in order that the actual cutters have a clear path on which to travel. Then there are cleaners. These ants ride around on top of the leaves looking for harmful foreign matter so that nothing is carried into the nest. According to Wikipedia these ants are capable of defoliating an entire citrus tree in less than 24 hours. I would say that is a pretty productive ant colony.

My bible happened to be opened to Proverbs 30 when I noticed the trail of ants. My eyes fell upon verses 24-25. “Four things are small on the earth, but they are exceedingly wise: The ants are not a strong people, but they prepare their food in the summer.” The Lord had my attention. I began asking Him what He wanted to communicate through the ants.

Ants prepare in one season so that they will be ready in the next. They are focused and diligent to stay on their assigned task. They make room for other ants to do their job. They work with purpose. They work together for the greater good of the colony. They are meticulous in keeping intrusions and obstructions from their path.

It particularly struck me that they prepare their food in the summer. Summer is upon us and I believe we are in a season of preparation. Of what, I do not know exactly. Perhaps it is different for each of us; however, I humbly ask you to go to the Lord and seek Him on what the preparation is for your life. He wants us to be a people prepared so that in the next season of our lives we will have the provision we need, not being caught off guard. Proverbs 6:9-10 describes what happens to one who is not prepared. “How long will you lie down O sluggard? When will you arise from you’re your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest. Your poverty will come in like a vagabond and your need like an armed man.” May we be awake and wise. I would love to hear what the Lord says to you.

Joy

Monday, May 18, 2009

Joy of the Jungle

Missions can be exciting and venturesome. The last day on a recent trip to D.R. Congo our team decided to go into the forest, (a.k.a. jungle), to see the Silverback Gorillas in their natural habitat. I had no idea what we were in for; I just knew that the atmosphere among our team was brewing with adventure. This is the kind of stuff my husband and 2 man-child’s LOVE! I am much more reluctant to step out into the unknown. But, on this day I mustered the courage to do so. And I didn’t even have my 3 men, (a.k.a. husband and 2 boys), to talk me into it. May I add that I was a bit proud of myself and was sure they would be too.

We hopped into our beloved Congolese friend’s 4-wheel African safari vehicle, (a.k.a. van) and off we went. After two and a half hours on a very rough road, a flat tire, a busted radiator, which we stopped several times to fill up, we arrived at our destination. We picked up 6 more participants, (a.k.a. armed guards), who would join us on our adventure. Now, on the one hand I was glad to see them but, on the other hand, I thought to myself, “Why do we need six armed guards?” It was at this point I began wondering if this was such a good idea. It was also at this point I began to remember why I leave this kind of stuff to my men. Maybe the word for it is FEAR! But, I was NOT going to back out. I had to save face among my team members. And I knew that my men would be merciless to me if they found out I had chickened out.

As we began our trek into the forest, I noticed that 2 of the guards went ahead of us. I realized later that they were actually cutting a path with their machetes for us to walk. There was no path because the brush was so thick. Too late now; I was all in. Not too far into the jungle my legs began to feel as if they were on fire. Did I mention I had on Capri’s, (a.k.a. pants that don’t cover your entire leg)? There is this plant that when you touch it little stingers come out and do what they are supposed to do. OUCH!

Me, myself and I had a very difficult conversation on the way. It went something like this. “What were you thinking? You, (a.k.a. stupid), should have just stayed back. You should have worn long pants! You are going to die out here! Ok, you’re here so just suck it up. You can do this. You’re going to get to see the gorillas. How many people get to do that? Couldn’t I have gone to the zoo? Be thankful! Do these guards really know where they are going? How much longer do we have?! To get home that is!” Do you ever have these kinds of conversations with yourself?

One thing sustained me during the trek through the jungle. I would look up every now and then and see Desire, (a.k.a. our beloved Congolese friend), smile at me. Or I would see his look of concern for me. Sometimes I saw a look of excitement as if he knew something we didn’t, like what we were getting ready to experience. I took comfort in each of his looks.

We continued for about 2 miles and then came upon a vast open field full of bamboo reed. We still had a ways to go but this time it was not brush we were walking in, it was water, (a.k.a. swamp). It actually felt good on my plant-stung legs even though it was black and mushy. The guards gathered us close together and told us to be very quiet. I was nervous. Then I heard bamboo moving. I was more nervous. Then I heard grunting. I was really nervous. And then there he was, in his element, very aware of our presence and yet so unaffected by it. And here I was, standing in the middle of a bamboo reed marsh 10 feet away from an entire family of Silverback Gorillas in the wild bush of Africa. It was beautiful. Desire was smiling big at this point!

Sometimes in life we have no earthly idea where we are going. And sometimes even when we know, we have no road map on how to get there. At times we feel stupid because we are very aware of our shortcomings and failures. We wonder if we've made the right decision. We question whether we can keep going. We somehow know, or want to believe that where we are going is going to be good. But we get stung along the way with a few surprises and doubt and fear set in. We try and talk ourselves into thinking positive and we just can’t.

And then we remember that we have a friend, (a.k.a. Jesus), who is concerned for us, smiles at us, knows exactly where He is leading us and what awaits us. We may not know the way, and sometimes the where, but we can know the Who. He is good and He is intentional on the journey towards our destiny. There will be intrusions, but He will bring us into our element, a wide open space where we will be unaffected by them. Adventure is before us. Beauty awaits us.

Joy (a.k.a. Joy of the Jungle)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Just Like You and Me

There are two things that you can be assured of in the Middle East, a call to prayer and bad coffee. Knowing this we went prepared with Dunkin Doughnuts coffee. We came out of the airport early in the morning and the hotel shuttle we had expected was nowhere in sight. The airport was empty and so was the parking lot. All that was there were a few taxi drivers in old cars. We told the gentleman on the curb where we wanted to go and he directed our team to two taxis that would take us to our hotel. As we loaded up and drove off to our hotel, I thought to myself, “There is no better time than now to trust Him who has safely gotten us this far.”

Our goal on this particular trip was to teach a conference on Spiritual Warfare and minister to those working in the country. The enemy in the Middle Eastern culture is subtle and seductively evil. After about 2 and half days, softness fell over the group and they began to open their hearts to be ministered to by the Lord. You cannot imagine how draining the spiritual climate is there. Part of this softening was triggered by a word of knowledge that had come from two friends who were praying for this trip. The word was “fence.” As we shared it with the group, people were challenged to tear down the fences they had built to protect themselves and allow God in to work. They are not much different than we are. We build up walls, or fences, of unbelief and fortify them with what God hasn’t done for us. As we fortify this position of unbelief, our hearts grow hard, callous, and numb to the voice and tenderness of the Lord. From this position, we are unstable and can end up on the sideline of life quickly. As the conference concluded, over twenty workers and their families were re-energized, encouraged and ready to continue in the battle that has been placed before them.

Towards the end of our visit, we traveled to an older market section of town to do some shopping and prayer walking. As we walked through the shops and interacted with the people, we began to gain real understanding that we are not so different from them. Behind the head coverings are women who desire to be loved and the men desire pleasure and success. As we understand this, our hearts should grow tender to the point of interceding daily for this region.

As we flew out, two words have stuck in my heart and continue to resonate with me even now as I write, “STAND FIRM.” Paul tells us this at least three times in Ephesians 6:10-20. These days are peculiar and I believe He is calling us to a position of standing firm in Him, dwelling in His shelter and abiding in His shadow. We must continue to STAND FIRM and believe that God’s Kingdom will come to the Middle East where people are just like you and me; people in need of a relationship with the God who created us.

Mark Tippett

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Other Side of the Cross

I had a moment of panic last night. I realized I was in big trouble when it dawned on me that my husband is out of town and will not be here Easter morning. (Sad face!) I gasped at the thought, “There is no one to cook Easter lunch!” (Bigger sad face!) “And who in the world is going to hide the Easter baskets?" (Yes, we do Easter baskets; yes, we hide the Easter baskets and yes, and we have a 15, 18, and a 21 year old married daughter, all of whom have asked me if they were going to get a basket this year.) I am scrambling to get it all together before Sunday!

My husband welcomes any occasion for fun, adventure, and excitement. So, whatever the holiday, he knows how to work the magic, creating fun for everyone. I don’t have to think so hard which allows me to sit back and enjoy the festivities. He will be sorely missed this Easter. I am not as good at this kind of thing as him. However, I will venture to do my best at making sure fun is had by all.

I know full well that Easter is not about the Easter bunny, getting baskets, or hiding eggs. I have actually been thinking about Easter for the past 8 or 9 months believer it or not. I read a book last summer entitled “When Heavens Invades Earth” and since then God has been reworking some of my thinking regarding the Cross and the Resurrection. I have come to realize that many Christians are stuck on this side of the Cross. Let me explain.

Mankind had a debt. This debt was called sin. The debt had to be paid and sin had to be settled. So God sent His son Jesus to pay off that debt by death on a cross. When one realizes he has a sin problem that he can’t settle on his own, and turns to Jesus for the settling of that debt, he has embraced the cross. This is a wonderful thing. However, many believers stay right there never realizing the life that is available to them on the other side of the cross. Never fully realizing that they have become a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Never realizing that their old nature is buried with Christ and they are now raised up and given new life (Romans 6:4). Never realizing they are seated in Heavenly Places with Christ (Ephesians 2:6). Never realizing they now possess the same power that resurrected Jesus from the tomb (Ephesians 1:19).

Am I saying the cross is not important? NEVER! It is essential. However, I fear that Satan has kept the church from her full potential by concealing the whole truth from her. As long as he can keep the focus on our sin, our flesh, and our old nature, he keeps us in the grave, or at best, on this side of the cross begging Jesus to do something for us that He has already done. He would love nothing more than to keep us from understanding the all powerful, jaw dropping, knee knocking, life breathing, mouth watering, resurrected life that is available to us because Jesus came up out of that tomb! We must now live on the other side of the Cross. This is the Resurrected Life.

It has been said that one of the greatest tragedies among the church is that we spend more time focusing on the sins we have committed, or commit, than we do on the life we are now called to live as co-heirs and friends of the most High God.

Do me a favor and ponder the other side of the Cross. It is:

Exciting Abundant Satisfying Transforming Everlasting Rejuvenating

Joy

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dare To Say It

It is a foregone conclusion; we live in a troubled world. Of course, the world has been in trouble since Adam. Read history, re-read the Bible and page after page records the growing consequences of garden variety sin. Add to the mix, the full-blown results of greed, hatred and indulgence and the outcome is a dangerous world. Behind it all the Ruler of this world stirs the pot.

Hopeless? Intimidating? It should not be for the people of God. We have not only been saved from this world, we have been saved for it. Salvation is not for our private consumption. Rather we are meant to be God’s merchants of hope in an otherwise hopeless world. What a day to be a Christian!

The once popular song “Who Will Answer” sends out its distress signals, “If the soul is darkened by a tear it cannot name; If the mind is baffled when the rules don’t fit the games, Who will Answer?” Fellow Believer, what a door is opened to us by such despair! It is our moment to shout, “Christ is the Answer!”

Parade magazine recently published a story captioned “The World’s Ten Worst Dictators”. As I read the article I suddenly realized we at Answering The Call have Christian friends and fellow servants of the Lord living under some of those very dictators. With God-given courage those Christians work to penetrate their surroundings with the Gospel of Jesus and it is our privilege to encourage and to equip them. But isn’t it dangerous to do all that? That is the point. If Christ is the answer it is inherently risky to say so.

As if he wrote it for this blog, the apostle Peter said:

“Who is there to harm you, if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation and do not be troubled but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you…” (I Peter 3: 13 – 15)

There are sensitive Christians today who want to run some risks for Jesus’ sake. That is why they are looking for churches with bigger things in mind than customizing the status quo. What an opportunity for those who know Jesus to dare to say to the surroundings of a troubled economy and a troubled world, “We have the Answer!”

Charles Fuller

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What In The World Is Going On?

The market has yet to find its bottom. The mortgage crisis may have just begun with reports that 11% of all homeowners are now in trouble. By the way, have you noticed the trend in social policy? Proposition 8, the will of the people in California may be overturned. There seems to be a major social policy change almost weekly. The question of the day is why would God allow all of this to happen? Is it His judgment? Perhaps people who are called by His name are not praying enough. What is He doing?

I have pondered these questions many times outside of America. In China an oppressive government continues to try and smash the house church movement. As they continue in this regard their country prospers like never before. Sincere and committed believers in southern Sudan continue to lack the bread they need to feed their families. Why? What is God doing? Doesn’t He know these heroes of the faith have suffered for His namesake? And then there is India, where believers have suffered persecution unto death. Maybe worst of all is east Congo. The rape and pillage of the down trodden people continues to defy all human standards. The power brokers around the world twiddle their thumbs and sit on millions of dollars of international aid while the people of east Congo literally starve to death and find themselves assaulted by well armed militias who answer to no one. What about justice? Why is God allowing this?

The answers to these questions lie in our fundamental concept of who God is and even who we are. The reports of a recent team into Congo bear this out for me. I have an interesting news flash for you. It’s not God who is doing this in Congo, Sudan, China or India. He is not making His children suffer for some greater purpose that is to be revealed in the by and by. This would be outside of His nature and His character. Would you do this to your children? Then how much more so would a father who is the very definition of good do it to His. Jesus stated in the gospel of Matthew that there was only One who was good. I hear it sometimes said as “God is good all the time; all the time God is good.

I have heard all of my life that God is not doing it but certainly He is allowing it. That doesn’t quite seem to line up with the character of God. After 10 years of moving in and out of war zones and human tragedy, my concept of why so much evil exists in the world is changing. I believe the children of God, also called the salt and light of the world, have not taken their rightful positions in this world, a position of authority over darkness and ones who are called to bring justice to the nations. Those called by God have been given a destiny, and when we fail to live out this destiny for whatever reason, unbelief, complacency, or fear, evil will continue to exist. I would further propose we allow this to exist not only in Sudan, Congo, China and India, but in our own country as well.

My thought is that we have not really understood who we are in Christ. God in His sovereignty chose to give man dominion over the earth, to rule and subdue it. If we fail to believe this we abdicate our responsibility on the earth. Whatever happened to the understanding that we are overcomers? Is it not true that we have become a new creation and as such we have been given authority over the dark realm? Is it fair to say that we as redeemed children of God have been given dominion over this earth? It seems to me that all of these notions are basic Christianity as C.S. Lewis would say, or the normal Christian life according to Watchman Nee.

What if you and I shook off the shekels of a religious spirit and moved in the supernatural to see changes in our own country and even in our own lives. Perhaps a day is coming when this is normal; a day when the kingdom spoken of in the New Testament comes to life. I think it is coming and I think the economy of this world has little to do with it.

David

Monday, February 23, 2009

Hide And Seek

Not too long ago David and I babysat for some friends who went on a much needed date. Within the span of a month this sweet couple had a newborn baby AND adopted a 7 year old from Congo. Needless to say, they were busy and I think it had been months since the two of them had actually been out alone. So, David and I headed over to their house and sent them on their way. We decided to take our first-born baby and her husband along with us. (Did I just say ‘our first-born baby and her husband?!!) Yikes! Say it ain’t so!

As soon as we got there Ben, our daughter’s husband, took the baby, who is extremely attached to her mama, and began to feed her a bottle. The baby didn’t fuss or cry; the baby was totally content. Jessica looked at me with great surprise. My mama instincts told me it was not just surprise that I was looking at but rather, great PLEASING surprise! She was impressed. Uh Oh! The mental pictures began to fly through my mind so fast I about fainted. This frame of thoughts ended with a blaring picture screaming, “You’re gonna be a grandma one day!” God help me, I need MY mama!

Well anyway, while Ben took care of the baby Jessica and I decided to play hide and seek with Julie, the 7 year old. Two of us would count while the other one hid. (I am not sure what David was doing.) It was obvious that Julie had played this before, probably with her daddy, because she had some pretty good hiding spots. She loved the game and especially loved being found. She would start giggling when we would get close to her hiding spot and inevitably end up giving herself away.

When it came time for me to hide, I made sure it would be nearly impossible to find me. I could hear Julie and Jessica counting and then the ole’ “ready or not here I come.” They began their search. They looked and looked but could not find me. They even opened the door and looked in the closet where I was hiding. I was tickled that they didn’t discover me! But then I began to tire of hiding in that dark, small and cramped closet. I began wishing they would find me. I felt conflicted over this. I wanted them to find me but at the same time, I liked that they couldn’t find me. I waited and waited. I thought about coming out and pronouncing with glee that I had won because they couldn’t find me. But somehow that didn’t seem right. I wanted to be found. I then had the thought, “if they got David to help them they could probably find me.” Wouldn’t you know it? That is exactly what they did. When I realized they had employed the big guy to help look for me, a sudden panic set in. I knew he would know where I was because he knows me. I knew I was about to be found. Sure enough, David walked right to the place where I was hiding, opened the door, looked further into the closet, and discovered me. I promise he did not see me hide. We all laughed and giggled and I think Julie decided she preferred doing the hiding.

Afterwards I thought, “This is such a picture of how we are with God.” We hide from Him, enjoying it at first because we think we are getting away with something. But then it begins to get unbearable in that dark and secret place away from Him. We want to be discovered. But there is conflict. We somehow like hiding and we are not totally sure we want to be found. And yet our soul cries out. We think about coming out and just saying, “I give up. Here I am!” But pride sets in and we think and decide we will stay right where we are a little longer. We must not give in. Or perhaps fear sets in and we wonder what will happen if we come out of hiding. Will we be rejected? Will we be humiliated? We somehow think that coming out of hiding is admitting failure or losing. But is it really winning staying in that small, dark, secret place where no one knows where we are?

There is nothing that quite compares to the relief of being found. I think in all of us there is a deep desire to be found and known. Some of you reading this want to be found! You want to be known, truly known by someone. When the Big Guy starts getting close it stirs up a little panic and we are tempted to resist or move further away and deeper in. But stop. Stay put. Don’t resist. Give in. I promise relief is coming. You aren’t being found by just anyone. You are being found by the One who knows you, really knows you. He knows exactly and precisely where you are hiding and He is still coming for you!

A great man once said that he counted all the things he had lost as mere rubbish compared to gaining Christ and being found in Him. My prayer for you today is that you will be found by Him and in Him. This is freedom! This is true life! This is winning! I pray “that you may have the power to understand...how wide, how long, how high and how deep God’s love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” (Ephesians 3:18-19, New Living Translation)

Joy