Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Mission Bible School - Sep. 26th

After the intense schedule on Monday, Tuesday's laid back pace was a welcome break. Phil started the day out by casually standing up and asking how many of us were musically inclined. Already getting used to his informal, personal way of addressing us, no-one was hesitant to respond. He didn't tell us that the normal worship leaders couldn't be there that day, he just proceeded to probe and was quick in finding out who played what. To our utter shock, he called myself and Joe B. up front to lead the singing that morning. Phil took uncanny delight in drawing us outside of our comfort zone, and he sure did succeed that time! I love playing piano for congregational singing, but this was a keyboard, no music was provided, and most of the songs chosen were newer praise and worship ones I wasn't familiar with. Talk about a frantic feeling! Fortunately Joe was an exceptional guitar player, and knew all the songs that I didn't. I was sure grateful to have someone to hide behind!

Throughout the remaining four days, Steve Byler from VA had the morning sessions on mission history. This particular morning he spent a good deal of time sharing his testimony, and his journey to the ministries God had allowed him to be a part of. It was beautiful to see how the various things the Lord had brought him through in the last 10 years set a perfect foundation for many of the truths Phil was going to bring to us in the following days about what we were going to face as we got involved in God's work. Seeing God blend the two speakers topics into one overall picture of His heart and how He applied to each one of our hearts individually was exciting to watch unfold.
That very morning, God has already started a convicting and refining work in my heart. During the previous evening's spontaneous prayer meeting, Phil had asked a very heart-searching question that troubled me very much. He explained that one of the biggest hindrances to letting God work in our life that week would be a comparing spirit. Right up front he asked us, "how many of you judged each other by outward appearances when you walked in here this morning, and formed a mental opinion of that person's spiritual condition?" Ouch....that hit close to home. I had done exactly that, but why did he have to make it sound so ugly? I mean, a person's outward appearance has something to do with their inner heart condition, doesn't it? A discerning heart is important!

So my reasoning went, but it didn't change or get rid of the conviction I was under. Little by little that morning, the Lord began to reveal areas of spiritual pride in my life - things I needed to get rid of for Him to work. As I finally agreed with His opinion of my life, my eyes started to open to His heart for us as young people that week. Coming from extremely varying backgrounds and convictions, we were all holding each other at arms length, and Phil's discerning eye prompted the previous night's question. As I let God start to re-construct my view of standards and unity among His children, walls were broken down that let God's Spirit come and move in a mighty way among us.

That afternoon there was a marked difference in relationships already, and our growing ease in relating to each other paved the way perfectly for Phil's session. He wanted to speak to us about one of the biggest hindrances in Christian ministry, and he started out by calling one of the young men up.

"So, Joe, tell us a little about yourself. We all haven't had a whole lot of time to get to know each other yet, so fill us in a bit. How many siblings do you have? What do you do for work?"

Phil's prompting gave Joe the inspiration to start talking, and no sooner had he got into it, when Phil ran over to the side, grabbed a full length mirror, and stuck it right in front of Joe's face. Joe stopped, looking questioningly at Phil, and he with a straight face told him to look back ahead and continue sharing! With a baffled expression, Joe attempted to pick up where he left off, only to find himself staring straight right back at him! Concentration completely lost, he finally turned back to Phil in desperation and said, "I can't do this! All I see is myself and I can't focus at all on what I'm trying to say!"
This illustration has stuck with me like few others ever have. Self-consciousness has been one of the hardest things for me to get over when sharing the Gospel or even serving my brothers and sisters in Christ. When looking at that soul who needs Jesus, or that family member that needs encouragement, too often all I see is myself. "How am I coming across? Did that sound stupid? Oh, I didn't say that just right, how can I fix it?" After the encounter is over, my mind races back over every detail of the conversation, and laments at all the things I didn't say that I think I should have, or the things I did say that I should have omitted. Condemnation settles in, and soon I am not lamenting over and focusing on that soul who needs Jesus, or that sister that needed encouragement, I'm grieving at what a fool I made of myself.

The remedy - not a pleasant prospect. Phil explained that the only way of getting rid of this sinful self-conscious pride and ego is complete death to self. Out of Phil's many and varied experiences, he has discovered that God most often brings this about through those who are very near and dear to us. Misunderstandings, criticisms, reproofs, intimidation, and slander, sadly, oftentimes from our fellow Christians are what work these dying experience in us. They destroy our self-image completely and cast us upon God. When our esteem with men is lost, our desire for God's approval goes way up and we become God-conscious vs. self-conscious. Phil said that these are going to be some of the most painful, heart-wrenching, and devastating times we will ever experience, and if we let them, the pain will be so great that it will kill us. And that is exactly why God brings them into our life. God must get us out of the way completely before He can effectively use us. We must come to the place where we are completely dead in our hearts to either the praise or slander of men. Our eyes will be so fixed on desiring the approval of God, it will not matter to us anymore.

This was sobering to all of us. I personally have not experienced this to a great degree, and I realize that if my life is going to be all God wants it to be, a lot of self is going to have to go. Though it can be a temptation to fret and worry about what the future holds, I can trust that nothing is going to come along that is not for my ultimate good and growth. God's faithful, convicting, and refining work in my life is an encouragement, and I'm eager to see His hand in even greater ways!
Many things about tomorrow,
I don't seem to understand;
But I know Who hold tomorrow,
And I know Who hold my hand.

May God bless you all as you continue to press forward, trusting Him to lead you each step of the way!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

God's Shaping Process

The hammer of thy discipline, O Lord
Strikes fast and hard. Life's anvil rings again
To Thy strong strokes. And yet we know 'tis then
That from the heart's hot iron all abroad
The rich glow spreads. Great Fashioner divine,
Who spareth not, in Thy far-seeing plan,
The blows that shape the character of man,
Or fire that makes him yield to touch of Thine,
Strike on, then, if Thou wilt! For Thou alone
Canst rightly test the temper of our will,
Or tell how these base matals may fulfil
Thy purpose - making all our life Thine own.
Only we do beseech Thee, let the pain
Of fiery ordeals through which we go
Shed all around us such a warmth and glow,
Such cheerful showers of sparks in golden rain,
That hard hearts may be melted, cold hearts fired,
And callous hearts be taught to feel and see
That discipline is more to be desired
Than all the ease that keeps us back from Thee.
-author unknown

Thursday, November 23, 2006

In memory of Jamie Hilsgen

One of the first evenings we spent with the Hilsgen family following the death of their son, I noticed a plaque they had pulled out. It read as following:
Jamie Christopher Hilsgen
Dependant on God, Christ-bearer

One who has yielded his will to the Lord and purposed that he will wait for God's timing in all areas of his life rather than manipulating his own way. This
dependence on God enables him to be a fit vessel to carry the message of Christ.

As I thought back on the past 13 years that I've known Jamie, I could honestly say this was the testi
mony of his life. As my parents and I were driving to his family's place one evening, we were reflecting on his life, and dad made the comment that Jamie was always happy and content. As the days progressed and I thought about this, my heart was sobered as I pondered my own heart. Death has never struck so close to my life before, and as I've stood face to face with it in one who was like a brother to me, eternity has never seemed so real. What am I living for? What are my priorities? What will be the testimony I leave behind when the Lord calls me home? These have been just some of the questions that have filled my heart these past nine days.

Thanks to each one of you who has prayed for the Hilsgen family. Though not without many tears and struggles, funeral plans went relatively smoothly. Paperwork turned out to be a breeze for burying Jamie in the orchard he had painstakingly planted. The weather was unusually beautiful for a later November day, and the home funeral deeply touched the nearly 400 people who attended.

Jamie was a young man of great skill, and his passion was working with his hands - especially the traditional crafts of by-gone days. He apprenticed under a nationally known blacksmith, Tom Latane, and this man built Jamie's casket out of hand-planed, white pine, and fastened it with hand-forged nails. The rope used for the handles was hand-braided, and it was told me that no power tools were used on any part of it.

The family conducted the funeral, and it was one of the deepest, most intimate times of remembering and honoring a deceased loved one I've ever attended. After the service, the casket was brought to a nearby hand-built hay wagon, and carried to Jamie's orchard by two of their draft horses. Among the 250 fruit trees he grafted, we held a precious, hour long grave side service. The hand-dug grave, the family's involvement, the times of singing together, and most of all, the way Jesus Christ was lifted up made this an unforgettable time.

When those who knew J
amie look at all he accomplished in his short 24 years on this earth, they sometimes fail to meditate on the Source of his strength. Jamie knew that he was talented, but he did not let this knowledge go to his head. He realized clearly that everything good in his life he owed to Jesus Christ, and he was not hesitant to give credit where credit was due.

Some ask, why did God take a dedicated young man of such potential? The accident was not a result of recklessness or sin, so why didn't God intervene? Why wasn't the drug addict who repeatedly drives under the influence of alcohol taken instead of Jamie?

As the tears and questions flowed throughout the first seve
ral days, God brought some precious and comforting verses to all of our hearts. "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints" and "the Lord does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked." Why did God take Jamie? The answer is simple. Jamie was ready, and God knew it would bring more glory to Him by taking Jamie home than leaving him here. Jamie is gone, but his testimony and influence is alive in many hearts, and will bear fruit for years to come.

The question I ask myself, and the question I ask you is, "What is the testimony we will leave behind some day?" Will it point to Christ and eternity, or one lived for the temporal, fleeting pleasures of this puff of smoke we call life? It is so brief, and can be over so soon, and it is urgent and imperative that we make every moment count for eternity and the One who lives to give us life. Not one of us knows when the sunset hours of our life are being lived. The night is coming - let us labor for the land where there is no sun to set, where tears are not thought of, and where we will forever be with the One we call Lord and Saviour.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

He knoweth the way that I take....

I soon hope to post a bit of the last week for you, but until then I want to give you this at least. Having been gone almost a whole week on and off, plus the emotional and physical strain of the funeral and it's preparation has been draining to say the least. However, as usual, God has taught me much through it, and some of it is expressed in this poem/song. Though much of the recent events we don't understand, we can trust the heart of our Father and His perfect love for each one of His children.

When God says "No" to you, it's such a blow to you
And all your hopes and dreams unravel at the seams;
When God says "Wait" to you, when God seems late to you
It's hard to rest within His will, it's hard to trust "Just be still"
It's hard to simply wait until it's all made plain

When God works silently, in ways we cannot see
And troubles multiply so that we ache and sigh.
When God does not seem kind, when hope is hard to find
It's hard to rest within His will, it's hard to trust "Just be still"
It's hard to simply wait until it's all made plain

He who holds us in His hands, has no problems only plans
He who has control of all sees the smallest sparrow fall
He who works where no one knows, does not sleep as we suppose
But works in all things, in great and small things
For His own glory and our best good.
-Bryan Jeffrey Leech

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Prayer Requested

I would earnestly ask your prayers for some very dear and close friends of ours. Yesterday afternoon while heading into town, their oldest son, Jamie, accidentally pulled out in front of a loaded milk truck at a dangerous intersection close to their house. He was killed instantly. 24, unmarried, and still at home, he was the life-blood of their family. They are taking it extremely hard, though clinging to the promises of God. In the couple hours we were able to to spend with them last night, we were blessed by their steadfast trust in our Father.

Please lift the Hilsgen family up in your prayers, especially these next several days. Being an extremely close-knit family, they are hoping and praying they will be allowed a home burial. Please pray for the legal details of that to be worked through quickly and smoothly. Also pray for the practical and physical out-workings of the next several weeks. Much of their business is done from home which Jamie was intricately involved in, and he has left behind a very sizable dairy goat herd that will need care. Just the responsibilities they are going to have to take over right now is overwhelming.

Thank you!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Not Called?

"While sailing to the New Hebrides John Patton lead the Captain of the ship to Christ. At the close of the voyage John made it clear to the Captain the Island he wished to be let off on. The Captain knowing the Island was filled with head hunting cannibals refused saying they would be dead in minutes of arriving on the Island. John Patton boldly stated to the Captain. "Sir, we died before we came!"
-John Patton
"It will not do to say that you have no special call to go to China. With these facts before you and with the command of the Lord Jesus to go and preach the gospel to every creature, you need rather to ascertain whether you have a special call to stay at home."
-Hudson Taylor
"You wonder why people choose fields away from the States when young people at home are drifting because no one wants to take time to listen to their problems. I'll tell you why I left. Because those Stateside young people have every opportunity to study, hear, and understand the Word of God in their own language, and these Indians have no opportunity whatsoever. I have had to make a cross of two logs, and lie down on it, to show the Indians what it means to crucify a man. When there is that much ignorance over here and so much knowledge and opportunity over there, I have no question in my mind why God sent me here. Those whimpering Stateside young people will wake up on the Day of Judgment condemned to worse fates than these demon-fearing Indians, because, having a Bible, they were bored with it---while these never heard of such a thing as writing."
-Jim Elliot
"Answering a student's question, 'Will the heathen who have not heard the Gospel be saved?' thus, 'It is more a question with me whether we, who have the Gospel and fail to give it to those who have not, can be saved."
- Charles Spurgeon
For an excellent article on the 'why' of missions, be sure to read this. If read with an an open heart, it will dispel any notion that each and every Christian is not called to be a missionary. Home or abroad, it is the very heartbeat of God. For another great quote, be sure to also read this post.

photo credit

Monday, November 13, 2006

Believe, Commit, Delight!

Trust in the Lord,
and do good;
so shalt thou dwell in the land,
and verily thou shalt be fed.

Delight thyself also
in the Lord;
and He shall give thee
the desires of thine heart.

Commit thy way
unto the Lord;
trust also in Him;
and He shall bring it to pass.

Rest in the Lord,
and wait patiently for Him.

Ps. 37:3-5,7a


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Qualification for Serving the Lord's Purposes

The Lord does really need men and women to serve His ends.... His need may be very great, and yet He may not be able now to open the way for you to come in to serve Him. . . The Lord is waiting until your heart is broken over this whole situation... It must be a matter of heart-love for the Lord and for what is His, and not for the work,
the ministry; not for anything but for your Lord and what is His. When you get there, and you are found upon your face before the Lord breaking your heart because you see He is not getting what He ought to have, when this becomes the travail of your soul, you will find the Lord will begin to do something.
-T. Austin-Sparks.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Political Idolatry

This last week as another election has come and gone, many thoughts have been going through my heart and mind. With acknowledgement that this is a very touchy subject, I would like to plainly give due respect to those who hold differing opinions on this matter. I share this e-mail forward, not to provoke a debate, but to stimulate thought and consideration to something very relevant to the age we live in. While I did vote and have no personal convictions against it, this article so aptly addresses the excesses of patriotism among many Christians that has grieved my heart for some time now.

Often I have wondered what would happen if the same diligence, effort, money, time, and fervency that went into walking precincts, attending political rallies, passing out literature, and decorating our vehicles with bumper stickers, was used in giving out tracts, persuading our neighbors of Christ's claims on their life, and praying for the millions across this world who are dying without ever hearing the name of Christ once. If that same zeal was used for the eternal cause of souls, I believe the effects would be staggering and worldwide. What truly are our priorities? This man's message is strong, but I believe it is worth considering....

-by Andrew Strom.

"Something I find a little distressing in America is that the Christians are so often relying on politics to accomplish spiritual results. Thus they ally themselves fervently with one particular party and treat it like "God has won" if that party wins - and "God has lost" if it doesn't. I almost see this as a kind of blindness.

The fact is - most of America's problems today are spiritual problems that can only be solved by a sweeping move of God's Spirit. Yet so often we rely on Politics and Politicians to accomplish many of these things. How bizarre!

How bizarre that we strive and strive to get the "right (worldly) guy" elected. How bizarre that we treat the President like some kind of mega-preacher or mega-minister. We put our "hope" in him and his Political party for all kinds of spiritual things!

I don't know of any other country where the Christians put such hope in worldly political parties for things that ONLY GOD CAN DO. Is this not a kind of idolatry??

Yes - there are issues of righteousness to be concerned with - and it is good to vote. But what is with this obsession with Politics amongst the Christians? Do we not realize it is a kind of "phony war"? Imagine if we spent all that time praying instead of striving for Political victory. We might be actually having a Revival right now!

Can Politics make America truly righteous? NO! Only GOD can do that!...."

-Andrew Strom