Divine Appointments

I recently hiked about 230 miles on the Appalachian Trail through the state of Pennsylvania. It was awesome and got me much closer to completing the entire 2200-mile trail. On the morning of my fifth day, I got up early and started hiking by 6:45. My goal was Boiling Springs because the trail went through the edge of town. Once in town, I ate breakfast at a restaurant, visited an outfitters store ,and stopped at a few displays that were a part of the Founder’s Day event of the town that day. Little did I know, but this meandering that I thought of as wasting time was actually God setting me up for a divine appointment.

I hiked another eleven or twelve miles, including a section of about a mile where I practically ran through swarms of mosquitos, and ended up at a farm or storage place used by the Appalachian Trial conference. I read earlier that I could find a cooler of cold water at this location. I saw the water cooler on the end of the table and a hiker sitting at the table talking on her phone. When she got off the phone, I learned that she had started hiking south somewhere in New Hampshire while I was hiking north from the Maryland/Pennsylvania state line.

Machu Pichu (an amazing place in Peru) came up in our conversation. I mentioned that while my son and I were doing mission work to study unreached people groups in Peru, we had visited the ancient ruins. She replied by asking me if I was a minister and then asked if I wouldn’t mind answering a question. She told me that she was Buddhist, but she had been considering Christianity. She had some questions and didn’t have anyone she could ask. Her question related to the exclusivity of the Gospel. Why was Jesus the only way to salvation? I had a thirty-minute conversation with her about God’s plan of salvation. She thanked me and agreed to think about the things I had shared before we parted ways. She went south; I went north.

I’ve thought a lot about that encounter. I was first amazed that many things could have kept me from meeting this seeker, but I happened upon the picnic table at just the right time for an eternal conversation. That was not an accident. My first thought was that this encounter happened that morning when I decided to start hiking at 6:45, but then I realized that it actually started thirty-five years ago when I started hiking the trail in Georgia. It may seem far-fetched, but I’m confident God orchestrated this meeting when I first decided to hike the Appalachian Trail, or even before. He loves Venus (that’s her trail name) and sent me on a mission to tell her about Jesus. I thought I was just hiking the Appalachian Trail for fun and to accomplish a life-long goal, but I was actually on a mission to keep a divine appointment.

God has divine appointments for all of us. The key is that we need to be attentive and prepared. We should start each day by asking God to help us to be sensitive to those appointments and not miss the opportunity to be used by Him. I’m honored to have been used by God to tell Venus about Jesus. I hope to meet her again one day in Heaven. I’m sure that I have missed opportunities in the past, but this encounter has sharpened my resolve to never miss an appointment again.

Who’s Your Somebody?

Everybody knows somebody who needs Jesus. Who’s your somebody? If you are a Christian, have you ever considered the fact that God wants to use you to help somebody find their way to Jesus Christ? Being used in this way could be something as simple as inviting someone to join you at church this Easter Sunday. Do you know that most people will go to church if someone simply invites them? Your thoughtful invitation may affect someone’s eternity. Have you thought about inviting someone to church this Sunday? Go ahead. Who’s your somebody? Write down their name, pray for them, and give them a call.

Helping people find their way to Christ can involve more than inviting them to church, though that’s a great start. It can also include openly sharing your faith with them. You may be thinking that you could never witness to people about Jesus. You’re not alone with this thought. You may think that if you dared to share your faith, someone may ask you a question you couldn’t answer, or you may say the wrong thing. I’d like to address these two concerns.

No one knows all of the answers, so allow me to go ahead and prepare you with a dose of reality. When you start talking about Jesus or sharing scripture from the Bible, someone will probablyask you a question that you can’t answer. It happens to me. I’m sure it happened to Billy Graham, C. S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, and any other breathing believer on the planet who dares to open up with someone about Christianity. You know what I do when someone asks me a question I can’t answer? I say, “I don’t know, but I’ll try to find out, but what I do know is…” and then I get back to presenting the Gospel. If anyone expects you to know everything about the Bible, then their expectations are unrealistic. Go ahead and prepare yourself for the inevitability. Don’t let someone’s unfair expectations cause you to keep from being obedient to Christ’s command to be a witness. Don’t let your fear be used by our spiritual enemy to impact someone’s eternal destiny.

As far as you saying the wrong thing, that’s also possible. Being a witness is essential, but being a prepared witness has an even greater impact. You can hopefully avoid saying the wrong thing if you’ll prepare yourself to be a witness. I suggest that you, first of all, write out your personal story. Be prepared to tell someone how you personally became a Christian. Then I suggest you memorize, or at least know where to find in the Bible, several key verses including John 3:16, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Romans 10:9-10, John 1:12, and Acts 16:31. While it’s impossible to be prepared for everything, you can be prepared for the mainthing.

Easter’s coming, and people are more open to spiritual things this time of year than any other time. Are you willing to at least invite someone to attend Easter service with you and your family? Are you ready to help somebody find his or her way to Jesus? Who’s your somebody?

How Do You Say Goodbye to your Mother?

momHow do you say goodbye to your mother? My mother passed away last week. I kissed her the night before she died, told her I loved her, and told her that she would soon see Jesus. It was a sad time when she died the next day, but our sorrow was not for my mom. It was for us. My mother loved Jesus with all of her heart. The scripture is clear that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Even with Alzheimer’s, my mother lived out her faith. Just months before her death, she was not able to talk about much, but she could carry on a conversation about the Word of God. She would sing hymns and pray. A month before she passed, I was at my parent’s house doing some repairs, and my mom walked into the kitchen and said, “I need to pray for you.” We bowed our heads, and she started a prayer. My mother didn’t get past “Dear Heavenly Father,” but God knew exactly what was on her heart. I am confident that the Holy Spirit finished her prayer somewhere in the portals of Heaven.

My mother was passionate about sharing the gospel with everyone in the world. She lived out her passion and influenced thousands and thousands of people all over the world. I know that she personally led over 1000 children to Christ during the 13-year period she was a camp director. I learned last week that she had written a song or chorus. I can’t believe I didn’t know that. Many of the grandchildren knew it. All of the grandchildren and great grandchildren (at least those who were old enough to sing) sang her song at her funeral:

Everyone, everywhere needs to know of God’s love; for everyone, everywhere, Jesus came from above
To die on Calvary; His great love for all to see. Everyone, everywhere needs God’s love.

My oldest daughter told me yesterday that her two-year-old daughter asked her daddy to sing to her Grandma’s song. I am confident that my mother’s heart and life’s passion will continue to influence my family and the world for generations to come.

How do you say goodbye to your mother? If you and your mom are Christians, you don’t have to. The Bible is clear that we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Our hope is in Jesus Christ. I have no doubt my mother is in Heaven. I don’t have to say “goodbye” but rather “I’ll see you later.”

French Train Attack Provides a Model

AmericansInFranceIf you have been watching the news the last few days, you are aware that three Americans, along with a gentlemen from Great Britain, stopped what certainly would have been another terrorist attack in France. When a would-be killer entered a train with multiple weapons, the four heroes dove on the man creating a very different ending to a story that would have been horrendous. The men were knighted by the French president and were given the highest honor in France. One of the Americans, Anthony Sadler, commented on the event and challenged the rest of the world with these words:

Do something. Hiding, or sitting back, is not going to accomplish anything. And the gunman would’ve been successful if my friend Spencer had not gotten up. So I just want that lesson to be learned going forward, in times of…terror like that, please do something. Don’t just stand by and watch.

I believe Sadler’s words ring true for the Church today as well. We live in times of great spiritual conflict, and the persecution of Christians has become commonplace – even in the United States. We must “do something” because “hiding or sitting back is not going to accomplish anything.” God has called Christians to engage and has even offered us the armor necessary for our defense and offense (Ephesians 6:10-18).

You may have also read where a Mississippi high school was banned from a half-time show because they were going to play an arrangement of “How Great Thou Art.” My hat goes off to the Jackson, Mississippi fans who stood and sang “How Great Thou Art” during the half-time show when the band was not allowed to play. When someone attacks Christianity, we need to be reminded that our battle is “not against flesh and blood.” We are in a spiritual conflict, and it is time for Christians to stop hiding behind their fear. We must pray as never before, witness to others as if the rapture will take place tomorrow, urge our political leaders to take a stand for righteousness, and vote for candidates that best reflect the teaching of the Bible. Same-sex unions have been legalized because the majority of Supreme Court justices are liberal men and women who do not submit to the authority of God’s Word. If all of the Bible-believing Christians in our country would have voted according to their beliefs a few years ago, this law would have never been passed. Because Christians either do not vote or do not believe we should put men and women in office who submit to the authority of God’s Word, we now have laws that stand in stark contrast to the clear teaching of the Bible. Sadly, we can expect things to only get worse in our nation.

We are in a spiritual battle, and it is time for the Church to do something about it. I urge you to engage the enemy. Don’t let Satan take any more territory without a fight. Let your light shine before the world so that the world will know the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you have not yet registered to vote, do so now. Get informed. Get involved. Pray for our nation as never before. Don’t just stand by and watch. Engage.

Amazing Churches

Church of the Intercession of the Mother of God, Pokrovskaia Tserkov, 1764. Church of Transfiguration, Preobrajenskaia Tserkov, 1714. Tower clock, 1874. Kizhi Island. Onega lake, Karelia. Russia.

I just read an article entitled “Ten of the World’s Most Stunning Religious Buildings.” The article presented a list of ten architectural masterpieces that really are amazing edifices. For example, one of the structures (see the picture) was made entirely with wood, but the builders did not use a single nail. Here’s what troubles me about this article. Most of them were not used for Christian purposes, and only one of the buildings that was used for Christian services is still used for anything other than a museum. The one building that is still in use is a Greek monastery called Metéora, which means “middle of the sky.” This monastery was built on top of a sandstone pillar about 1200 feet off the ground. When originally built in the 1500’s, no stairs were included. Monks had to be pulled up into the structure by rope, and the old ropes were not replaced until God showed the monks they needed to be replaced. How did that happen? You guessed it. A rope would break. I would hate to be the monk on the lift that convinced the250px-Holy_Monastery_of_Rousanou guy in charge that they needed a new rope.

I have at least two problems with this whole concept. First, nine out of ten of these buildings are not being used for the purpose of making Christ known to the world. Even the ones originally built for this purpose (though most of them were constructed to honor a particular monarch) are now simply museums. The one remaining structure still in use is for the purpose of getting away from the world instead of being used to reach the world. The second problem I have with them is that a church is actually a living organism (not a building) that exists for the purpose of carrying out Christ’s mission in the world: making disciples. This involves evangelism and spiritual mentoring as new believers become more like Christ. Disciple making requires us to be busy and in the world (but not of it). I would enjoy visiting these buildings because I am fascinated with architecture – especially of old buildings. While these ten buildings are stunning indeed, they are also heart breaking. Maybe we should be stunned that something so beautiful is so ineffective. The real question is are we the church God wants us to be? Regardless of the place of our church membership, if we are Christians, then we are called to embrace the world (people), love the world (of course I’m speaking of loving the people of the world regardless of their background, beliefs, or life-styles), and lead the world to faith in Christ. If people looked at you or at the building you go to for church services, would they see something or someone who is passionately in love with Jesus Christ and working tirelessly for His cause or would they see a dusty museum? Just a thought.