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

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Child of Promise

The voice of the Father thundered from the throne:

"Today is the day of salvation! Today is the day of my favor!"

A shout of praise erupted in the throne room that shook the very foundations of heaven. Gabriel remembered His mission to the young Galilean girl. What an honor it had been to deliver such a message!

You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!...The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:31-33; 35)

There was so much anticipation wrapped up in this day.

As one who was privileged to stand in the presence of God, Gabriel had come to understand how much the Father loved His children on the earth. His attention was often turned toward them, His eyes searching the world, looking for those whose hearts were fully committed to Him. He had masterfully formed them with His hands, imprinted them with His image, and breathed His breath into them to give them life.

To see them suffering in their fallen state was heartbreaking to Him. They had turned from Him countless times, followed their own ways, forgotten how He had rescued them time and time again. They had run after other 'gods', not listened to His voice. Oh, how they had pierced themselves with many griefs! Despite their wickedness, and despite all of the ways that they had hurt Him, His heart was set on loving them, and that love would endure forever. If only they understood how much He loved them.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, He had spoken to His people through the prophets, but in these last days He would speak to them through His Son. For God in all His fullness was pleased to dwell in Christ, and through Him, God would reconcile everything to Himself. Yes, Jesus would be the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, the visible image of the invisible God to a world full of orphans, alienated from their Father.

Today was the day that Jesus, the God-man, would draw His first breath on earth and set in motion God's mysterious plan of redemption and salvation. It was not the will of the Father that any of His little ones should perish. He longed to give them eternal life, and that life was found in knowing Him, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He had sent.

It was time.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord's glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. "Don't be afraid!" he said.

"I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior-yes, the Messiah, the Lord-has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger."

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others-the armies of heaven-praising God and saying, "Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased." (Luke 2:8-14)

Gabriel and the host of heaven returned to the Father rejoicing. What a celebration filled the heavens! The Father lifted His voice and proclaimed:

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. Today a child has been born, a son given, and the government will be upon His shoulders. He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of His government and peace there will be no end!"

"Indeed, I will put My Spirit upon Him, and anoint Him to bring Good News to the poor. I have sent Him to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord's favor has come!"

What Good News! The angels sang and rejoiced, giving praise and glory to God: "Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, risen with healing in His wings! Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth! Glory to the newborn King! Glory to the newborn King!"

As Mary gazed into the eyes of her baby she remembered all that Gabriel had spoken to her regarding the child, and she treasured these things in her heart.

Jonathan McGraw

Monday, December 6, 2010

Pete's Update

About six months I, along with a team from Pensacola, Florida, visited a beaten and battered people tucked away in the jungles of Southeast India. They had endured persecution at the hands of their radical Hindu neighbors. They suffered the destruction of some of their homes and the taking of much of their lands. They walked great distances for the water they needed to survive since they were not allowed to use the Hindu well a few steps away. These issues however, were not the primary source of their defeated condition.


As we met and talked with them the root of their downcast spirit was revealed. They told us, “We are Peter.” They held on to this identity because in order to spare their lives and the lives of their children they had denied Jesus when confronted by angry Hindu mobs.


I don’t know if I ever enjoyed bringing the good news of the kingdom more than I did that day. We shared with them that in fact they could claim Peter as their identity in Christ. I also reminded them that 40 days after Peter denied Jesus he preached at Pentecost and we are told thousands were saved. The application was also clear as I reminded them to embrace this part of their identity as well. I told them it had been 15 months since their failure and it was past time to move on and engage, like Peter, what God had in front of them.



They seemed overjoyed by this news and even relieved. Maybe you have experienced the joy and relief of no longer being identified by your failures but by what God was doing in you instead. Still, I wondered as I flew back into India this time what we would find in this remote village. As we trudged 8 miles up the mountain to see them I was excited to see what God had done.


As we gathered the believers for worship and to feast on fresh pig, the atmosphere was much lighter than in our previous visit. As we worshiped I marveled at the fulfillment of their prophetic identity with Peter. It was now much more complete. I realized sitting in a church that had doubled in size over the last 6 months it seemed they too had been preaching and displaying the Gospel of the kingdom in their region. This proclamation, like Peters', had resulted in many being aded to their numbers. Currently, In that small village, the believers outnumber the Hindus and the resulting change is palpable.

It’s so like the enemy to bombard our minds with reminders of our failure in an effort to frustrate and even halt the destiny we have in front of us. I’m thinking this happens not only in obscure villages in India, but maybe even here in the United States. As we wage war for the nations, and even for our own nation, maybe it’s good to know that the primary battleground is in the mind.


David

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thank you for the Storm

Last week I was sharing details over the phone to someone about the devastation that was taking place around us. The reply I received was, “Most people don’t realize what y’all go through in that “paradise.” I kind of laughed to myself and thought, Nope. No, they probably don’t. Take away the air conditioned rental cars, the vacation money you saved up to spend on anything that catches your eye, the nice, spotless hotel room that gets scrubbed for you every day, and your leisure to catch as many breathtaking sunsets as you want and you are left with little resembling a paradise. People often joke to us, “Ah well, how are you doing there “suffering” for Jesus?” Sometimes I would like to trade places with them for a day and see if maybe the sarcasm drips off of their remark a bit. Do you know what I think I would discover? The world around them is probably surrounded with a lot of suffering too, and probably fewer beautiful sunsets. They may not have to endure daily fiery ant bites, mud squishing between their toes when they go to their car, bumpy roads, intense heat....but I am sure they face trials of many kinds. We are all in the same world boat, so to speak, with suffering to endure. Next to that thought another truth can equally be applied: We all have something to be grateful for. We all have reasons to thank our Lord and praise His name.

This past week most people living in south Pacific Costa Rica faced trials of many kinds. Many, many kinds. Tuesday evening it began to rain, and the rain did not stop for 108 hours. During that time we lost power, internet connection, water, fresh food, and the ability to drive any further than ten minutes from where we live. We also might have lost our sanity, but with a wild toddler to entertain in these conditions, who wouldn’t? Many people died, many lost their homes or at least the things in their homes, many, even after the storm, are still without power and water. Plans were canceled, funerals were planned, schools were closed, and in general people were at a loss for what they could do. Many prayed and our faithful God answered. Saturday morning met us with a few rays of sunshine breaking through and nothing more than a calm drizzle of rain. Basic comforts were slowly restored and life began to bustle about once more. What were our petty inconveniences compared to the great loss many faced? There is much to be grateful for.

Tuesday nights we meet with a handful of locals to spend time with God and study His Word together. This week, instead of receiving Jason’s teaching of the Word, we spent our time writing down the many things we are grateful for, blessings that God has poured into our lives and surrounded us with. The more time we deliberately spent pondering our blessings, the more blessed we realized we are. Our lists grew and grew until the pages were filled. Great things. Simple things. Even difficult things. All straight from the hand that created us with love, grace, mercy and that sustains us with compassion, patience and kindness.

It may seem cliche to write in November about giving thanks, but this girl is not ashamed. May we thank Him during the storms, may we thank Him under a bright sun, may we thank Him when we are full, may we thank Him when all is gone. Thank you for the storm, Papa. Thank you for what you’ve done.

Sarah Thompson Smith

Thanksgivings written down from Tuesday









Thursday, October 21, 2010

In That Day

Last week while at church one of the youth's favorite bands blared a song through the sound system. There were a lot of kids and I'm not sure any of them were catching the prophetic lyrics of the song. The band played,

"I lay awake on a long dark night
I can't seem to tame my mind
Slings and arrows are killin' me inside."

Jesus talked about days like these. He said, as He spoke about the days preceding His return, "There will be great tribulation such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now." I have always thought of this tribulation in the context of massive world war and hiding out from the anti-Christ, but that's not really what Jesus is saying. The understanding of this Greek word "tribulation" is key. The word in this context means a pressure or burden upon the spirit which causes grievous affliction or distress. It was not a new idea. Daniel prophesied the same thing, when the enemy would "wear out the saints of the Most High."

That is what I see both in many circles that I am in; Saints of the Most High who are worn out! Interesting to be living out what Daniel prophesied and Jesus spoke of. I say "living out" because it is often my experience too.

In the same setting, Jesus tells us what this wearing out of the saints will look like. He said, "Lawlessness will increase and the love of many will grow cold." The song continued to blare on Sunday morning and the band sang, prophetically, I think, of a love grown cold.

"Simple livin' is my desperate cry
Been tradin' love with indifference
And it suits me just fine."

I'm praying that this wearing out doesn't make my love or your love grow cold. Perhaps we are afraid to feel. Maybe we have been hurt and a scabbed wound won't let us feel. It's not impossible that sin has deadened us and we no longer feel because our spirit is dead.

There is an answer to this. The song screamed at me, even as I noticed those around me were fixed on their tasks or engaged in conversation. The band played,

"The day reminds me of you
The night hides your truth
One day it ends
One day we die
Believe what you will that's your right
But I choose to win
I choose to fight."

It reminds me of a prophet of old who was worn out and found the answer to his desperation and love grown cold. A prophet who confronted then ran from the spirit of his day embodied by none other than Jezebel. The culture wanted his total and complete destruction. We are told he fled. He spent 40 days and 40 nights on "Horeb, the mount of God." Here at Horeb there was rest for his weary soul. It's an interesting place to find the answer to weariness. Horeb in Hebrew means desolation. Desolation is defined as a state of complete emptiness. It was on the desolate mountain of God in a state of emptiness that Elijah could once again find God. May I remind you he found Him not in the wind, an earthquake, or in the fire, but rather in a whisper. Perhaps an empty state finally allowed him to hear the whisper.

My sense is not only that many of us are worn out and watching our love grow cold as we trade it for indifference. I also sense that the God of the ages is whispering to us. May you find Him as He whispers, and as you do, may you once again discover Him as your sole refuge. He is our provision in a day of great tribulation.

David Fuller

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Role Reversal

Recently a pastor with whom we partner in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon visited Winston-Salem. Over the last few months, the Lord has revealed an incredible strategy for ATC to reach the Middle East, and this pastor (we will call him John) is a key part of that strategy. In June, ATC was part of an effort to fund the beginning phases of the construction of a worship center and “safe house”, and I assumed that John was simply making a stop in Winston-Salem to say “thank you”.


The reality of operating a non-profit in this economy is a bit trying at times, and when John showed up in Winston-Salem, I was in the midst of one of those times. To be brief, I was not in the best frame of mind when he arrived as I was preparing for a board meeting and trying to discern how we would fund the on-going operations of ATC. However, the Lord knew exactly what I needed to enable me to continue doing what I believe he has called me to do.


John (whose name has been changed to protect his safety) spent two days in Winston-Salem simply sharing stories of what the Lord is doing in Lebanon. And these stories reminded me that the Lord is much bigger than the issues that trouble me; that the work we are undertaking is the Lord’s work; that the Lord will accomplish His work, with or without ATC; and that it is a huge blessing to be doing this work as the Lord leads and enables.



As I spent time with him, I was amazed that John never mentioned his ministry or talked about funding. He was completely focused on what the Lord was doing through the lives of people that have been a part of his ministry. In his sharing of a particular story that I had heard in Lebanon, I was even a little frustrated because I thought he was “underselling”. After all, the person he was talking about was from a particularly well known extremist group, had parents that were teachers of the Qur’an, and had come to Christ! But all that John shared of his background was that this man no longer had identification and could not return to his home. What John focused on was how the Lord was using this man in his current situation. He talked of this man’s love for Christ and his desire to share this love with his people. And for those interested, from an isolated cinderblock room, this man happens to be running the largest Christian online chat room for Muslims.


One story after another revealed how the Lord has touched people from all kinds of backgrounds and then sent them off to share what He had revealed to them. I was amazed and encouraged. To think that the Lord has connected ATC with this pastor; and through this connection, we are able to see how the Lord is expanding His kingdom in the Middle East.


John left Winston-Salem with a bit of a challenge to us. He thanked us for our forefathers, the missionaries that brought the Gospel to Lebanon, but warned us not to rest on their accomplishments. There are unreached people out there, and we have to be in the game! He also reminded us of the simple fact that we need each other. It is kind of cool to think of a small group of believers in the Bekaa Valley praying for us and us for them - and the Lord moving in both places! As this John pointed out, the front line of contact with Islam seems to have expanded outside of the Middle East and, and we need our Arab brothers and sisters to help us understand the most effective way to share the love of Christ with people of Muslim backgrounds.


So thank you John for doing for me that which the Lord has called ATC to do for you and others in hard to reach places – to share the Gospel and make disciples of all nations through prayer, encouragement and assistance of and for local leaders and pastors in their ongoing ministries.


Courtney Mauzy





Friday, September 17, 2010

Fire

Since the beginning the passion behind ATC was to reach people in difficult places. I understood the need of this particularly in places where oppressive governments and fundamentalist religious systems rule with iron fisted grips. This need continues to exist and I am sure we will continue running to the front lines of these battlefields.


I learned something this summer that is not in contrast to this but stands along side it. Some places are difficult to reach merely because of inaccessibility. They are difficult to get to, not because of the guns that surround them; but rather, because of their location.

This summer several teams, alongside ATC, were able to reach into an unreached people group. In the southern mountains of Costa Rica, which borders Panama, there resides not only thousands of acres of beautiful virgin rainforest, but an unreached people group as well, the Guaymi Indians.


I left our facility with a team in tow to visit and do some ministry with this unreached indigenous group. We decided we would take teams to this region and finish the construction needed on a one-room-school-house. We thought this would allow us to cultivate relationship with these people so that we could share Jesus with them.


The drive from our facility, which operated this summer as a missions base, to the mountains was about two hours. Just before the road ended we stopped at a small convenience type store in order to get last minute supplies. With some food and equipment in hand we came to the end of the road. We parked the 4 wheel drive vehicles and began walking into the mountains on foot.


The path was difficult. It gradually grew steeper. It also became increasingly narrow. The difficulty was not only in the grade and distance traveled, but more so in the shin deep mud that had to be negotiated. In any event, after a couple hour trek we found ourselves in the middle of a small village that serves as a gateway to these 3000 people.


As dinner time rolled around it was time for me to use my vast missions experience and expertise to build a fire so we could cook dinner. This can be difficult when the wood is wet and you’ve never earned your eagle scout badge. I struggled with this and was about to give up when relief came to my tired and hungry body.


From higher up the mountain came one of the locals. He was upright and official looking as he approached us carrying something I could not initially see. As he reached me I could see he had brought burning pieces of wood coals to help me start my fire. My relief was soon followed by one of the best spaghetti dinners I have ever eaten.


This was their custom; the offering of coals to help travelers start their fires. You can hardly survive in that place without fire. This was also a custom during the days when Jesus walked the earth. Paul makes reference to on one occasion and in fact, it is mentioned in the Old Testament.


Paul said, “If your enemy is hungry feed him; if he is thirsty give him something to drink; for by doing so you will heap burning coals on his head.” I am thinking that we have at times misconstrued this passage. We've twisted it with the thought that if we are kind to our enemies it will cause them pain and suffering and bring them to repentance. Perhaps it has been a way for us to focus on the speck in our brother’s eye rather than the log in our own; taking pride in our good deeds even towards our enemies, maybe relishing in the thought that they may be squirming with uncomfortableness at our kindness towards them.


The meaning of this passage is displayed by the Guaymi Indians. Paul was saying that when we feed and clothe our enemy we bless him. He is saying feed your enemies; give them drink; tend to their needs. It will be a shower of blessing like coals on a cold wet night in the rainforest of Costa Rica when you are tired, weary, and hungry. The call is simply to bless, giving your enemy what he needs, not only to survive but also, to grow and flourish.


I am thinking there are a lot of enemies out there these days. I am sensing the call to employ kingdom strategies where they are concerned. Political strategies will bring a certain result, but maybe kingdom strategies will produce kingdom results.


David

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Changes

I got up this morning and pulled up my blinds like I do every morning. And my eyes fell to the same spot that they fall every time I am raising my blinds; the section of street directly in front of our house. My heart dropped for a moment when I realized it wasn’t there. It had been there for so long that it had become a fixture. I wasn’t even necessarily looking for it but I KNEW it was gone. My eyes welled up with tears and a sadness crept in. I went downstairs to put on some coffee and found David sitting on the couch. He had been up for a while. He didn’t say a word but I KNEW he was feeling the same thing I was feeling. 

How can the absence of an old-green-beat-up-Volvo, normally parked in froth of my house send me to tears? I have been thinking about that missing car all day. It was what left with the car that really caused the tears.

My oldest son left for Louisiana today in that old-green-beat-up-Volvo. Yes...that’s right...Louisiana. Far, far away. He’s venturing off into a new chapter of his life, which means the chapter in my life changes as well. I wish these kids of mine would quit turning the pages! Every time a page turns my heart has to readjust a little. We are moving through the book way to fast! I know these things happen and are normal. I even know it is good. but for this momma, it sure is sad. 

All day I have been filled with thoughts of when he was an adorable baby, the cutest toddler, a young lad, and a persnickety, contrary teenager. I am remembering family vacations, all the countries we have been privileged to visit together, fights we’ve had, morning coffee times, conversations about history, God talks, and so much more. How can it be that I now have 2 children living on the other side of the continental United States?

In my reflection and pondering I must say that my heart is filled with gratitude. I think I have the best kids in the world. (Please note I did not say perfect or without problems.) I wouldn’t trade all the uncertainties, fights, trials, distresses, emotional meltdowns and heartache for one minute if it meant I couldn't have them. They are a gift. They bring pain and they bring joy. But they are worth it. They are my loves. 



I told my boys the other day that the strangest thing happens when a child is born and placed in your arms. You all of a sudden experience a love that you've never experienced before. Where did it come from? How is it you would die in that very moment for someone you have just met? It is extraordinary.

The emotional day has led me to ponder the love of God. We are not perfect nor without problems and defects. Let’s face it, we are wrecks much of the time. Most of the time I feel like a liability to God. Certainly not an asset. And yet, “He did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all.”

Really? Even though I am difficult, always need improving and never enough?

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”

What about wayward children? Broken marriages? Debt? Addictions? Hopelessness?

“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Life may change but His love never changes.

Written by one of His loves,

Joy

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Family of God

While we have been busy in Costa Rica, (more on that later), Jim and Nita Tarter have been getting it done in India! They spent 6 weeks traveling to ATC fields in North and South India.


Sometimes it’s is just best to hear it straight from the horses mouth. I submit the following email as written to David from the leader of the movement in South India.


Dear Pastor


Greetings you in the name of Lord Jesus Christ. We are well by the grace of God and through your prayer . So haw are you and where are you.Thank you very much for sending in our aria to Dr. James and sister Nita trained and build up in the Lord Jesus Christ to many Pastors and Leaders. it was blessing for us that Dr. James and Dr. Nita have came in our place and done very under full things. They Teach the pastors and leaders Godly way. all the Pastors and leaders very blessed with their conference or seminary . They not only Teach but also they did great things, that is they fasted in our place for peace , they prayed for the seek people and God did under full things through them , Through their prayer God Heal some people.Even they said their lives testimony and encourage Pastors, Leaders, And belivers too. So thank you very much for sending to them in our place. Ones again Thank you very much for your fund for Children's. I got it from Dr. James and Dr. Nita.. Which church have given this money kindly give thanks on behalf of us. I am very greatful to that churches. and friends who have given this money for Children's .

Ones again thank you very much for your Love and Care To all up us.

Please continually pray for us.

Your in His Love and Grace

Bikram


The older I get the more I truly appreciate the body of Christ, warts and all as my father-in-law use to say. It is the expression of God on the earth. None of us have all the answers. Baptists don’t own the corner on preaching the Word of God. Charismatics don’t own the corner on exercising the Gifts of the Spirit. Pentecostals don’t own the corner on demonstrating the Power of God. Methodists don’t own the corner on sharing the Charity of God. 1 Corinthians 13 says we all know in part and prophecy in part. The point is: We need each other!


Paul says it best. “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly....” (Romans 12:4-6) For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ...For the body is not one member, but many...But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired...If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body...And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you."...So that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” (1 Corinthians 12)


Each one of my 3 children is very different from the other. Each one has a unique way of thinking and expressing. Nothing pleases me more as a mom than to see my children enjoy one another. We literally bless God when we, His family, love, share, care, and enjoy one another, especially in our differences.


Thank you Jim and Nita for giving your part this summer. Thank you First Baptist Pensacola and Grand Parkway Houston for giving your part to our family in India.


Joy

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Shift in Syria


I recently had the opportunity to travel with a team, including my daughter, from Winston-Salem, NC to Syria. I had not been to Syria before and was somewhat surprised when I found out that the pastors we would be visiting had active churches that had the freedom to operate “above ground”. My surprise continued as we crossed the border from Lebanon into Syria, where the roads improved and there was even a Dunkin Donuts. Syria is a beautiful country, and the history certainly would justify a tour of the country. But we were there to encourage pastors and to see how Answering the Call might be able to assist them in their efforts. I continued to be encouraged as the first church we visited seemed to be well established with several discipleship ministries and an impressive outreach effort. So, when we received an invitation to meet the man responsible for multiple churches in Syria, we went to the meeting expecting to be surprised and excited by this expanding effort.

When we arrived at this pastor’s office, it became clear that he was bothered by something, and I started to wonder if we should leave. As it turned out, he had just received a message that one of his churches had been shut down by the local government with no explanation. This was the first time something like this had happened and there was concern that this closing might not be isolated, but actually represent a shift. Well we stayed, talked and prayed, and I believe the Lord allowed us to offer him at least a bit of encouragement.


On the next day, June 6, our only Sunday in Syria, we worshipped with an incredible body of believers outside of Damascus. The pastor of this church has done an amazing job of unifying denominations in his town and has developed a church with members of various backgrounds. We shared testimonies with members of the body, shared a meal, and had an amazing time of worship. Amazing in that the three of us that did not speak Arabic were equally moved by the time of worship, feeling the Holy Spirit move, without understanding a word of what was said…Our amazement in the joy of the worship was enhanced by the fact that this very church had recently been told that they would be shut out of their meeting place (an apartment) if they could not prove that their body was composed of a majority of people with Christian backgrounds.


Our worship that Sunday and the incredible joy present in that body of believers was a humbling reminder that the church is not a building but a group of people united their belief and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. And the body of believers in Syria seems to be entering a time when their freedom to meet and worship in public will be challenged. It has been said that “June 12, 2010 may have been the saddest day for Christianity in Syria” when the police entered and closed four additional and major churches, telling the pastors they could not meet until further notice.


So please pray for our Syrian brothers and sisters in Christ. Pray for protection, unity and wisdom as they are forced to deal with new and sometimes unknown challenges. And pray for how the Lord would have ATC be involved…


Courtney Mauzy

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Who is Boss?

In my years of travel I have made several trips that made me a little nervous. The recent trip to Yemen would be included in this category. It seemed like a good idea when it was first conceived. In this country where proselytization is illegal, we had decided that a group on bikes would help to deter any problems that would come along.


All we needed were a group of guys who could see the brilliance of the plan. We would ride 250 miles together. Along the way we would pray proclaiming the territory as the Lord’s. We would pray for anyone who wanted, and maybe give away a few New Testaments. As I say, it seemed like a good idea at the time, but as departure day approached I must admit to a little hesitation.

The Sunday before departure the church prayed for my son, Josh, and me. It seemed right. More than that, it seemed important. I began to be a little more at peace.


I soon learned I was not the only one who had some concern. The week after the church prayed, and the week prior to our departure, a family member of one of the team member’s contacted the State Department for their opinion of the journey. The State Department was not as exuberant as the church was on Sunday. They sent a letter back to those who had inquired stating in no uncertain terms that while they couldn’t prohibit the upcoming journey, they did strongly recommend against it. They were exhaustive in citing their reasons for this opinion. They told of civil wars, land mine’s, and pockets of terrorism. They explained that Americans were not infrequently the target of kidnapping plots. If that weren’t enough they explained that unruly traffic patterns made bicycling unsafe. I think I had heard all of this before, except about the traffic patterns. I suppose it was the official nature of the letter that was disconcerting. We decided to keep our plans and go as planned.

While in Yemen we experienced something quite different than what the State Department had described. We were confronted with cheers from people on the street and honks of encouragement from passing cars as we rode. They seemed most impressed with our youngest team member, Johnny, and myself. They kept asking how an "old man" could make such a trip. I admit to wondering the same thing at points. As we rode we prayed. I don’t know how to describe it other than to say the Spirit of God was strong! As we asked for permission to pray for people we were never, not once, denied. We prayed in Jesus’s name only to be confronted by smiles. We were invited into Mosques. We talked with Imams. At the end of our ride we were presented with a newspaper. In the second section on the front paper we found our picture with the caption “Team America.”

Was the State Department wrong? Were they engaged in some form of propaganda? I don’t think so. The reality is, all that they said was true. In fact, the day after we left two Americans were kidnapped. I am left to wonder where is the disconnect?


I think I have the answer. Listen good to this one. It could take us, the church, a long way. Jesus launched a kingdom that we are now subjects of. For those of us who are believers, this kingdom is our reality. We may be “in this world” but we are not “of it”. The implication of this is that we are no longer subject to it. We are His subjects and the rules and ways of the world do not bind us. As we act in obedience to our King the world’s kings have no ultimate dominion over us. I find this truth to be good news these days!

The implications of this are huge. I think it means we need to quit taking our marching orders from earthly kings and those who operate in fear. This frees us to take a word that will not return void anywhere in the world. We can even take it across the street.


Be blessed as you go knowing your King sits on the throne.


David

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sleep Well

It has been said that the word of God will not return void. I think it was somebody important who said that. In fact, I believe it was God.


I find relief in this. It helps to define my role in the process of things without making me responsible for the results. It’s the kind of concept that allows you to sleep at night in India when outside your window you are confronted with the starkness of a lost and dying mass of people held tightly in the enemies grip. This is true for all of us as we encounter, and even oppose, environments or deeds of darkness. We do so as light. A light that dispels darkness by way of an infusion of the word of God. Not being held to man made or religious standards of success frees us to operate in our role and allows us to emerge victorious simply because we have engaged Him and joined Him in the process. The word of God, both written and living, will not return void. It will accomplish it’s purpose.

I was recently in the Middle East where our team rode bikes throughout the country. I found this strategy to be very disarming. It allowed us to move freely and pray for literally hundreds in that place in the name of Jesus. We prayed that their revelation of God would be full and complete. It also allowed us to physically tread on the land reclaiming it in prayer for the kingdom of God. We even felt like the Lord would allow us to strategically place the written word of God in key places along the way.


As the “old guy” on the trip, there was one day of riding that was particularly difficult for me. We rode along the coast of the Red Sea. They say it was beautiful but to be honest the temperatures of 113 degrees kept me from noticing. The prayer that day was among the most powerful I had ever experienced. (More on that in the next blog.)


I felt like I had heard from the Lord that we were supposed to interact with people in the Mosque and pray. Up to this point we had been prohibited from doing so. As we rode into the final town that day it was as if the prayer along the way had generated something. I know that's a bit vague but I don’t know how else to state the tenor of things at that moment.


We were offered a walking tour of the town. Even though every muscle in my body screamed NO, we readily accepted. One of the most prominent stops on the tour was to look upon the Grand Mosque. I was told that 6000 people go there weekly to hear the Imam’s teaching and pray facing Mecca. As we arrived we were invited to come inside. I’m not sure that this is normal to invite Western visitors into the mosque but we were happy to go.


They showed us the classes they were holding for children who were reciting parts of the Koran. They showed us the place from which the Imam spoke. They explained their customs of prayer and pointed out which way you were to face as you prayed. I found it all very interesting. Some of it was sad So often we take for granted the unhindered and free access we have into the very throne room of God.


As we were leaving, the Imam, who seemed warmed by our visit, came and told us he had a departing gift for us. He took us to a book case and presented us with a tour book of his country. A small gift but a grand gesture. With some fear and trembling and at the prodding of a team member I thought of the New Testaments we had brought and slowly I began to see that we also had a gift to offer.


I asked the Imam, “What books do you study here?” He answered, “We study the Koran” and he also mentioned a couple of the other books. I noticed he didn’t mention the Injil, which is the gospels in our New Testament. So, I asked, “How about the Injil, do you study it here as well?” He seemed almost sad as he responded, “No, we use to study it but we no longer have one.” I proceeded to tell him that we had a gift for him. We presented him with two New Testaments in Arabic. At first he refused saying it was too precious a gift to accept. I told him we didn’t speak Arabic so they must be for him and that he could study them and teach his people. He indicated that he would.


And, the word of God will not return void. It will accomplish His purposes. I slept good that night recognizing the team is a part of the process and God is responsible for the results. He is an amazing God!


David