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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Micmash: A Place of Audacious Faith

The prince Jonathan sat next to his armor bearer at Geba staring across the valley to Micmash. It looked as if the stars had fallen from the sky and dotted the ridgeline in the distance. The Philistines had made camp with an army of tens of thousands of fighting men at Micmash. Their campfires gave away their position. They outnumbered the Israelites so severely they had no reason to hide. Their songs of victory and celebration drifted across the night air. In their minds the battle was already been won. 

Jonathan sighed as he thought about recent history. After defeating the Ammonites, his father Saul was crowned as king in Gilgal. The priest Samuel stepped down as the last judge of Israel and Saul continued the fight to secure the Promised Land. He raised an army of three thousand men, a thousand of whom were under Jonathan when he attacked Geba. All of Israel heard of the victory and that they had become as a stench to the Philistines. 

The Philistines mustered an army near a hundred thousand strong, a combined arms force of chariots, cavalry, archers, and infantry. All of Israel was called upon to rally with Saul at Gilgal, but as the Philistine army advanced the people were struck with fear. The enemy arrived at Micmash, having faced little to no opposition. Many men of Israel took to the hill country of Ephraim to hide. Some were captured and conscripted, marching in the ranks of the enemy army. Others fled across the Jordan, seeking refuge in Gad and Gilead.

Meanwhile, Saul waited on Samuel in Gilgal. His people were hard pressed and unarmed. Those that were with him in Gilgal trembled with fear. When he grew impatient, he made an unlawful sacrifice. Samuel arrived shortly thereafter and rebuked the king. Still, Saul marched to Gibeah to meet the Philistines with several thousand men whose confidence was shaken by Samuel's rebuke and who were daunted by the sheer size of the force opposing them. 

The two armies waited on either side of the valley, the Philistines on the north at Micmash and the Israelites on the south at Gibeah. The Israelites were too few to attack the Philistines head on, but the Philistines were so numerous that they had sent companies far to the east and west, even to their rear, so that the Israelites could not attack from the flanks or the rear. While Saul waited to make a decision his army of thousands melted away. 

On this morning the count had been only six hundred men of Israel. Frustrated, Jonathan went ahead to Geba, at the edge of the valley. He went alone, except for his armor bearer, without telling anyone. He spent the day staring across the valley. It was half a mile wide at it's widest point. He could see the tents of the Philistine generals set upon Micmash. On the south side of the valley, east of Micmash was a cliff called Seneh, called so because it was covered by acacia trees. On the north side was a cliff called Bozez, because it's chalky white rock shone brightly as it reflected the sunlight through the day. It was a ruggedly beautiful landscape that was not lost on Jonathan despite the dire circumstance.

As the sun went down he began to understand why he had come alone and why he had not yet returned. Tomorrow morning there would be even fewer men of Israel camped in Gibeah. The Philistines meanwhile would be another day closer to enveloping Saul's army. He sat awake through the night, thinking about what was in front of him. What he was about to do would be incredibly foolish or incredibly audacious. He trusted the Lord though, so just before dawn he said to his armor bearer, “Come, let us go over to the Philistine garrison on the other side. It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few.” Without a moment's hesitation, his armor bearer gathered up the spears, bow, arrows, and extra sword he carried for the prince. “Do all that is in your heart. Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you heart and soul.”

The two men scrambled down Seneh, the acacia thorns reaching out of the twilight and tearing at their skin as they went. But the mean scrub foliage also concealed their approach. They took a moment to catch their breath when they reached the bottom. The going was much easier as they crossed the bottom of the valley. As they approached Bozez, Philistine sentries atop the cliff called out and taunted them in the early morning light. “Come up after me, for the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel,” Jonathan said to his armor bearer. So the two scaled the cliff of Bozez. As the sun rose, and the rocks shone, the Philistines found it hard to keep track of the two bold Israelites. Suddenly, Jonathan clambered over the edge of the cliff and struck out with his sword. 

The clash of swords, the shouts of angry men, and cries of pain rang through the air. A Philistine sentry fell from the edge of the cliff, letting loose a heart wrenching scream of terror as he fell. Jonathan struck down every Philistine in his path as he fought his way west towards the tents of the Philistine leaders at Micmash. His armor bearer came behind him and delivered the killing blow to any enemy left breathing after Jonathan had passed. This was the terror that the Philistine camp awoke to.

The fear took hold and spread through the camp like a wildfire. Men roused from drunken stupors staggered to their feet and stumbled into each other. Some mistook each other for enemies and ran each other through with sword and spear. Horses tore loose from their hitches and stampeded through the camp. Men and animals ran about without purpose, driven by a savage instinct to survive. Embers from the night's campfires were scattered about, setting bedding, tents, and food stores alight. The chaos of tens of thousands of men and animals put to flight caused the entire earth to shake. Jonathan and his armor bearer felt the ground quake beneath their feet, while they were still beyond the outskirts of the main camp. 

The watchmen of Saul's army in Gibeah saw what was happening across the valley and woke the king, who they found reclining under a pomegranate tree. He ordered a count and found that his son and his armor bearer were not in the camp. Saul summoned the priest Ahijah and the Ark was brought forward. The army of Israel rallied and Saul led them west of Micmash to intercept the fleeing enemy. Meanwhile, the men of Israel who had been in the Philistine camp joined Jonathan's pursuit and those who had hidden in Ephraim came down from the hills. In a miraculous turn of events it was now the Philistines and not the Israelites who had been enveloped. 

That day, Jonathan earned a great victory for Israel by listening and responding to the Lord. By any man's estimation the battle had already been decided. It was only a matter of time before the Philistines crushed Israel, yet one warrior's faith turned the tide of war. One victor willing to leave a camp of defeatists and deserters. One follower of God who took a path that seemed impassable, to surprise an overwhelming enemy. One fearless man who attacked with such audacity that it struck fear into proud and malicious hearts, and inspired those he had left behind. One individual, chosen by God to exhibit his sovereignty, was responsible for saving all of Israel that day.

As we approach the new year, consider whether we are looking across the valley like Saul at Gibeah or Jonathan at Geba. If we are postured as Jonathan was at Geba, we are in a place to hear from God. Despite what we know or don't know about the coming year, there is reason for hope rather than fear. There is a rugged beauty to life and the world that we should not miss, even amidst circumstance that may seem overwhelming. I feel that as 2014 ends and we enter into 2015 God is saying to us, “Come, let us go.” It is up to us whether or not we will respond as Jonathan's armor bearer, “I am with you heart and soul.” This next year is a year for audacity, or willingness to take bold risks of faith in our personal lives and as a body of believers. This time next year, let's remember 2015 as The Year of Living Audaciously and let's celebrate miraculous victories on the scale of Jonathan at Micmash.
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Written by Ben Machia, 30 December 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tis the Reason

What is the reason for the season? It's definitely not Hallmark. And at the risk of sounding sacrilegious, it's not Jesus. At least not in the cliché way that we have made it. Without doubt Jesus is the reason for the season, but it's not a story neatly wrapped up in a nativity scene or a chorus of Silent Night. Christmas is a time to commemorate the wild, romantic, adventure that is the story of Jesus born in Bethlehem and crucified on Calvary. It's a story of love and redemption. It's a story of oppression and revolution.
 

The story began in a beautiful, lush garden. Sin forced the first man and woman from Eden, corrupted God's perfect Creation, and the Enemy cursed every generation that followed. For centuries the story of God and his most beloved creations is endless iterations of humanity rebelling and God reiterating his endless love for them. Until, such a time arrived that the oppression of God's chosen people was so great that he decided he would send his only begotten son to rescue them. That is the part of the story we commemorate at Christmas.

Jesus was born at a time when Israel was occupied by the Roman Empire, under Caesar Augustus. The occupation was locally administered by Herod, a ruthless madman. At the time of Jesus' birth, all of Israel was subject to a census. The purpose was to ensure that all families were paying the oppressive tax imposed upon them by Rome.

So the carpenter Joseph and a pregnant Mary traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the ancestral home of King David, who had united Israel's tribes and made them a great nation-state. Those days were long gone though. In 63 BC the Roman general Pompey captured the city of Jerusalem, ending a short period of independent Jewish rule after the Maccabees liberated Jerusalem from Greek occupiers. Before the Greeks, had been the Persians, and the Babylonians, and the Assyrians. In short, it had been a long time since Israel had been free.
 

It had been prophesied that Mary's baby would be called Immanuel (God with us). The Son of God was born in flesh in a manger and he was visited by shepherds and wise men alike. To the shepherds in the field, angels announced the newborn as the Savior of the Jews and the magi from the east knew him to be the King of the Jews. A baby boy that could unite men from all walks of life with a common hope was such a threat to Rome that Herod ordered all Jewish boys in the Bethlehem area two years old or younger to be put to death. Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt with young Jesus. No doubt, their cross-country flight was facilitated by the shepherds and their way was paid by the gifts brought by the wise men.

When Herod died, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned to Israel. The boy grew into a man, and he became known throughout the land as a radical rabbi who turned the establishment upside down. Among his disciples were Matthew and Simon. Matthew had been a tax collector, an administrator of the Roman system that oppressed God's people. Simon had been a zealot, one of the rebels who sought to overthrow Roman rule with violence. Yet, both of these men became as brothers when their hearts and minds were captured by the teachings of this rabbi. Here was a man who did not come to save Israel by rhetoric or sword. Rather he came to establish a kingdom not of this earth; not to overthrow a human government, but to free all mankind from the true Enemy.

That victory was won on a cross on a hill outside of Jerusalem. What appeared to be a tactical victory for Rome and the collaborating religious leaders was actually a strategic victory in the eternal realm. In his death Jesus took on the weight of all our sin and shame so that we could be redeemed. Three days later he rose from the grave to proclaim victory over death. In the centuries since we eagerly await his return.

So this Christmas, let us remember that the reason for the season is to remember that a sacrifice was paid for us. Let us remember that we are commemorating a revolution that changed the world, a revolution that will free all men from the burdens of sin and shame, from legal oppression, and even the institution of religion. This is the reason for the season. God loved us so much that He sent his Son to become flesh and die on a cross so that we could be redeemed. With that in mind, let us ask ourselves this season how we may best carry on that tradition of overwhelming compassion compelling us to sacrificial action. And remember, we are led by Immanuel, God with us. If God is with us, then no power can prevent us from establishing His kingdom.
 

May you and your loved ones be blessed. And may you all be a blessing to those in need. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
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Written by Ben Machia, 17 December 2014

Friday, December 19, 2014

Earth Interrupted


Some 2000 years ago Diety left Heaven and invaded a planet called Earth.  
What was on Earth that would compel the One who shaped mountains,
 told oceans when to rise and recede, placed the stars in the heavens
 to leave His glorious abode?  

Man.  

The little ones created and fashioned in His image
wandered in wastelands.
His heart apprehended Him.
His love demanded action.
And so He came.
In glory.
In humility. 

In Him dwelt the fullness of God.
Yet He came in the likeness of a man 
so that man could become like Him. 

His Sacrifice  ~  Our Salvation

Jesus.
----------------
Written by
Joy Fuller

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

JOIN US IN 2015

ANSWERING THE CALL
DECEMBER 2014


"How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace...who announces salvation, and says to Zion, 'Your God Reigns!'"Answering the Call has been privileged to take the good news and announce peace and salvation to various parts of the world this year through feeding centers, medicine, clean water, healing ministry, pastoral training and new schools.

We plan to return to South Sudan and DR Congo in 2015 in order to continue the ongoing ministry of feeding centers, well projects and food routes for the Nubian people. We are also planning a medical project in India, as well a partnership with brothers and sisters in the Middle East to expand a safe house for persecuted believers.

We humbly ask that you pray for us and perhaps join us as we join God in 2015. We also ask that you consider making a year-end contribution to Answering the Call, which will allow us to continue our mission of reaching people in difficult to reach places in 2015. ATC is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and all donations are tax deductible. You may give on line at http://atcmissions.org/donate.php or checks may be made out to Answering the Call and mailed to:

Answering the Call
P.O. Box 4541
Roanoke, VA 24015 


Revelation 1:5 says Jesus is the ruler of the kings of the earth. This is very good news because everyone, whether they know it or not, is looking for a king like Jesus. He establishes justice, peace, righteousness and love in the hearts of those who follow Him. One day He will establish it in all the earth. This is our hope this holiday season and for every season.

May God  bless you immeasurably with the knowledge of His great love for you. Thank you for being a part of taking peace, salvation and good news to the world. Your God Reigns!

Sincerely,

Answering the Call Staff