Sunday, February 19, 2017

No Matter the Cost

As our family missions trip draws ever nearer, we are busy making plans and ironing out details and making reservations.  We are excitedly sharing our plans and desires for our trip with friends and family and asking for prayer and financial support.  We are also, more importantly, trying to mentally and spiritually prepare ourselves for the weeks ahead and the actual trip as we know that we "do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12).

In my own personal preparations, I just finished reading the book The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected by Nik Ripken, which has been a HUGE blessing to me personally and a significant spiritual growth stimulator in my own life.  This book has incredible stories of Christians who suffered through significant persecution yet kept their faith and had God do amazing work in and through their lives and/or deaths. I have been reminded through these stories and lessons the author learned through his conversations with these believers that God doesn't call us to go and make disciples to areas that are safe.  He simply calls us to GO (Matthew 28:19-20).  At the same time, Jesus warned his disciples and us that the world will hate us and persecute us (John 15).  We are reminded by the Apostle Paul that we are crucified with Christ and no longer live but instead, Christ lives in us (Galatians 2:20).  He reminds us that we should desire to "know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death" (Philippians 3:10).

When we decided to do this family missions trip, we knew the risks we would be taking in going to a country suffering from unrest and where our dear sisters and brothers in Christ suffer various forms of persecution for their faith.  One of the churches we will be worshiping in is on terrorist group hit lists.  In a country with less than 1% Christians, it can get very lonely for believers, and the temptation to lose faith is great.  On the flip side, the opportunity for faith to grow and be ever resilient is greater for them than it is for us here in the comforts of our freedoms and our assumption of safety.  We want to go and minister to and encourage these dear saints.  At the same time, we hope to be challenged spiritually by their faith and learn to be ever faithful in the midst of suffering.  We want our fellowship with the believers to be a time of edification for them and us alike as we bear each others burdens and sharpen one another helping each other to be more like Christ so that through our lives more people will be led to Christ.  Isn't that the Gospel in action?

Some of our well-meaning friends and family have asked us whether or not we are truly being wise and thinking about our boys in choosing to take them into a dangerous area.  While we appreciate their care and concern for our family's well-being and safety, we have to follow God's calling in this area.  We have discussed with the boys the risks and allowed them to have the final say in whether or not they think it's worth it, and they are 100% behind this and so very eager to go.  We truly believe God has called us to do this, and He has been confirming this call in so many different ways (some even miraculous!) since we made this decision.  God hasn't called us to do this to put us in danger.  He has promised to be with us "always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20).  Our lives (and our boys' lives) are not our own -- they have been bought with a price, and hence, we must glorify God with our bodies (I Corinthians 6:19-20).  Our lives are nothing to us, and like Paul, our desire is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord has given us - testifying to the Gospel of God's grace (Acts 20:24)!  We have been reminded by a dear friend from this area that we are truly "bullet-proof"!  No bullet will take our lives or wound us unless it was God's ordained "bullet" because His work in us on this earth is complete or He has greater plans for us.

Are there fears and concerns?  Sure, we are, after all, human!  What's greater is God's call on our lives to take up His cross and follow Him and carry out the Great Commission wherever He leads us - right here in Elverson, PA right now and in other places near and far away as He directs our steps.

This great God whom we serve sacrificed His own Son's life through a terrible, painful death on the cross so that our sins could be wiped clean, and we could once and for all have right standing before God and a home in His presence for all eternity.  He intricately formed us in our mother's wombs giving us the breath of life and ordaining all of our days.  He made us His children when we were filthy in our sins unable to desire Him.  He has walked with us through our various struggles in this life and has never failed us.  He comforts us with His Word and His church universal.  He strengthens us and showers us with His grace to survive each day He has planned for us.  This is love too great for me to comprehend!

As Isaac Watts penned in his great hymn "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross," "Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all."  No matter the cost, I give my life and the lives of my boys to our great God!  Here I stand.  I can do no other!

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