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

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Melody of Freedom

Jack London wrote, “I'd rather sing one wild song and burst my heart with it, than live a thousand years ...” Yet, I think we are more likely to live a thousand years and incoherently whisper a muted refrain with our last dying breath. You see, life is a terminal condition. We should not rush to finish it, nor should we strive to keep it. In the time we are given though, we should sing that one wild song we, and we alone, were meant to sing. Silence does not echo, here on earth or in eternity. And when we shuffle off this mortal coil all that can remain is the echo of our song.

So why do so many of us leave our songs left unsung?

Imagine this. Imagine an orchestra in an auditorium so packed that people are standing in the aisles prepared to hear beautiful music. Everyone has turned out. The rich people are sitting in their boxes. The poor people are crowding the doors. The conductor takes a solemn bow and faces his musicians. He smiles to himself, thinking how wonderful each of them sounded practicing in private, delighted that they'll finally get to share with the public. With a flair, he raises his hands and begins to gesture passionately. Nothing happens. Then there is a stuttering start. It does not sound good at all. Each musician is in his own rhythm, completely ignoring the maestro. The crowd that came to hear a symphony can only stand the cacophony for so long. Eventually the auditorium is empty and silent as every musician gives up in frustration and desperation.

How many of us are musicians who think we know better than our maestro? I know that I find myself in that position more often than I would like to admit. I find myself believing that just because I've been made first chair by the conductor, I must be more qualified than he to play my music. Sadly, I often don't realize this until I witness the auditorium emptying.

Just recently I was in this place. I had been watching my master. Then I got distracted and stopped. Rather than going one measure at a time, I was in a manic frenzy to do it all at once or none of it at all. I vacillated between the song I thought best and no song at all, finally defaulting to no song at all as I became aware that I lacked the brilliance and creativity of my maestro.

And that is how we leave the songs we were meant for unsung. We stop paying attention and before we know it we're whispering an imitation of our masterpiece on our deathbeds. Our only hope is to start paying attention before life catches up to us. Fortunately, we have a conductor who never stops gesturing to get our attention. Whatever bar we choose to enter on we are welcome. Regardless, all of our songs will culminate. The choice is ours for it to be a song that bursts our hearts with intensity or echoes faintly as a whimper that barely escapes.

Stripping away the analogy of music, what I'm really saying is God is speaking. If we are not listening, then we need to be. If we are listening, then we need to be responding. He is leading; we need to be following. Follow the direction that He is leading. Even when you don't understand. Especially when you don't understand. It will probably be more wild than we could have expected. If we're faithful we may burst our hearts before a thousand years of silence has passed without an echo.

Life is such that if we rely solely upon ourselves we are quickly overcome by worries and woes. Yet if we fix our eyes on God we find the truth of Jeremiah 29:11-14.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”

Our God is not only a masterful conductor, but a brilliant composer as well. In each of us there is a melody that He composed just for us. However, we, ourselves more than any circumstance, are apt to lock it away. That melody is what He wants to see set free with His love.

John Piper says, “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.” It's a statement I believe is true, but that doesn't mean I always remember it. The first time I read that, it shocked me. I thought, God is glorified, just when we find satisfaction in Him? Surely that can't be! But surely it is. When we simply listen and respond to God we are satisfied and He is glorified.

The benefit of that communion is often mirrored in our relationships with other people. So, if ever it seems the auditorium of our lives is emptying, it should be an indication that something is wrong between the musician and the maestro. Yet, don't be discouraged, God is always inviting us to jump in on the next measure, in order to bring us back from our captivity.
Written by Ben Machia, 27 October 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hide And Seek

David and I once babysat for some friends who were on a much needed date. Within the span of a month this sweet couple had a baby and adopted a 7 year old from Congo. I think it had been months since the two of them had actually been out alone. Needless to say, they were due a date. So, we headed over to their house and sent them on their way. Our daughter and her husband tagged along with us. 

As soon as we arrived our son-in-law Ben took the baby and began feeding her a bottle. David picked up a book and 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. It was obvious that Julie had played this before 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 shout the ole’ “ready or not here we 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 eventually I began to get tired hiding in that dark, small and cramped closet. I began wishing they would find me. I felt conflicted. On the one hand, I wanted them to find me but on the other, 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. This seemed justifiable since they didn’t actually find me. But somehow that didn’t seem right. I wanted to be found. I then had this random thought that 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 hiding 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. We all laughed and giggled. I think Julie decided she preferred doing the hiding. 

Later, while pondering the hide-and-seek game, I realized it painted such a picture of how we are with God. We hide from Him, enjoying whatever the pleasure at hand may be. We feel embolden that 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 decide we will stay right where we are. We must not and will 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? Will we be scolded? We somehow think that coming out of hiding is admitting failure or losing. But is it really winning staying in that small, dark and 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 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. The One who formed you in your mother’s womb and knows the number of hairs on your head. He knows exactly and precisely where you are hiding and He is still coming for you!

Paul says 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! I pray “that you may have the power to 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) 

Do you hear that?  His love for us is so great that we will never fully understand it. But when we receive it and choose to believe it, our lives will be turned upside down. We are made complete. We become whole and hiding loses its appeal. The real winner is the one who is known and found by His Maker.

Written by Joy Fuller

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Her Destiny

One of my favorite things to do as I travel is to visit the local barbershops. All over the world barbershops are the same. One guy working, several guys hanging out, and always filled with spirited discussion of not so important matters. Hopefully, no offense at this point, but I would have to add, that woman are not there telling a man how he should get his haircut. I have been to the barbershop in more countries than I can remember and they are all the same, both outside of the United States and Western Europe. 

I remember a particular trip to a barbershop in Antioch, Turkey. This barbershop experience rivaled the best one I have ever experienced. The best was in Ukraine but this one was a close second. True to form there were five guys sitting and one guy working. A unique feature of this barbershop that I particularly enjoyed was the presence of a young boy of fifteen who was there assisting his father and learning the craft. He handed over instruments and cream with the precision of a highly skilled surgical nurse. 

The barber was a lighthearted man with a warmth in his eyes. He was a man who enjoyed his profession. He seemed to know that the giving of a haircut was an act of art rather than a mere job to be done. With great skill he trimmed my hair and then without discussion moved on to my beard. He was not in a hurry nor was he slow. After the main goal was accomplished he paid great attention to the details. He would not be satisfied with his final product until even my ears and nose were adequately attended to. Try and find a barber in the States who will do that! 

This brings me to my favorite part. The final touch was heated shaving cream and a straight razor shave. See what I mean! Liability and law suits have made this part a distant memory in America. And by the way, lest you think I'm living to high on the hog as a missionary, all of this cost ten dollars, including a tip to the barber and a tip to his son that was more than generous.

It led me to a question as I climbed out of the barber chair. What in the name of Heaven has happened to the barbers in America?  I can't find one!

And now, an even more serious question. What has happened to the church in Antioch? I am here to tell you that as of now the flame that once burned bright is barely flickering. I'm not being critical. I just feel that I need to give an honest report.

While in Turkey I also climbed a mountain to look into a cave where Peter and Paul met to discuss the urgent matters of the early church. I felt as though I was on hallowed ground. I will never read the book of Acts quite the same. This vision is forever etched in my mind. The understanding of the courageous nature of these men was almost palpable. I fear we have reduced our warriors to greeters, ushers, and even worse a checkbook. While looking into that cave, I couldn't imagine greeters, ushers or even checkbooks. I could however, conjure up a picture of men who understood determination and sacrifice.

As the nearby Mosque blurted out the call to prayer, I was hammered with the question, "What happened to the church here?" How is it this special place has become a shrine controlled by Muslims who charge Christians five bucks to take a gander at their own heritage? A strange turn of events is it not? The current state of the body in Antioch is far from its history.

Now, rather than a church whose trademark was courage, you find a body who shaking with fear. This fear is interesting in that it's not a fear of a current reality but instead a fear of what could happen. I am reminded of the acronym for FEAR, False Evidence Appearing Real. No longer is the body in Antioch characterized by men and women who come together allowing iron to sharpen iron, and then before the Lord come to unity in their differences. Instead, the body is marked by division and worry about the health and financial viability of their own fiefdoms rather than together engaging in kingdom activity. It seems the same in America. I wonder if we are not more concerned with promoting our own platforms, agendas and fiefdoms than we are with promoting His agenda and His Kingdom. Division and fear are all too familiar and brings kingdom activity to a standstill at best. 

The final chapter has not been written in this place. I am not discouraged by the state of the body in Antioch. I am well aware that God is not finished in that ancient city. The grandeur of the movement that was once there has the opportunity to be there again.
Jesus said go and make disciples of all Nations and scripture says that in the end there will be both Goat Nations and Sheep Nations. Sheep Nations will be Nations that choose and honor Him. Lance Wallnau writes,  “The God of Abraham is more than the God of the Christian religion or the savior of lost souls, He is the savior of nations and cities in their distress. Christ has all power on Earth, now, to prove He is the RULER OF NATIONS. The Father promised Jesus NATIONS for His inheritance. (Psalm 2) Every country is being discipled rapidly, either by the Spirit of Christ or an increasingly aggressive spirit of Antichrist. The "glorious church" will be the deciding factor in nations.”

The Church has a destiny inside of her that she has yet to recognize or fully understand. We are the ones called to make known the manifold wisdom of God in the earth. We are the ones called to make disciples of all nations. It begins with me. It begins with you. We do it together and join God in ensuring His promise to His Son, the Nations. I pray we wake up to this glorious truth and choose this day whom we will serve. May we be found not merely saying, but also living, “As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord.” 

Written by David Fuller

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Way of the Ants

I don’t dream a lot. When I do dream it is very specific and usually has meaning. One summer before leaving for Costa Rica I had a dream about ants. It was so vivid and real. The next morning I was driving my son to school. He asked me a question that triggered memory of the dream which then flashed across my mind in its’ entirety. I immediately became anxious. I had this overwhelming desire to get back home because I knew God wanted to speak to me. After dropping off my son, I drove home to journal my dream and anything God wanted to say about it.

Several months after the dream we left to spend the summer in Costa Rica. We were in the process of building Refugio Solte, the ATC ministry center. Our arrival was typical to all other arrivals; broken down cars, a plethora of bug bites, beautiful flowers, communication difficulties, and unexpected mishaps on the mountain. We had come to expect the unexpected. God seems to teach us new things every year. And some things He seems to re-teach us.

As soon as we arrived, I stepped out of the car and into an ant hill. I knew it would be a summer of learning about ants. Along with other things. The Leaf Cutter ants are plentiful in Costa Rica. and amazing to observe. There are several varieties of ants within a Leaf Cutter 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. Other ants do the actual leaf cutting and bring them back to the nest. Some tend to the fungus gardens, where the leaves are harvested 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.

One particular morning while drinking my coffee I noticed a trail of Leaf Cutter ants moving along at steady speed, as if hoping no one would notice half of the shrubs they had harvested over night. My bible happened to be opened to Proverbs 30. 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.

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 is amazing how much wisdom we can gain through these little, many times unnoticeable, creatures. Proverbs 6 tell us to be wise and observe the ways of the ants. I encourage you to observe them for yourself. Ask the Lord about your own preparation during this season. The preparation for each of us may be different. Maybe our hearts need some realignment on an issue. Perhaps we need to finally forgive that person. Maybe we need to repent. Maybe we need to get real with God about a few things.

This is a season of preparation, positioning, focus and intentionality. He wants us to be a people prepared so that in the next season of our lives we will have the provision we need and the character to sustain what He brings.

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.
Written by Joy Fuller