THE MANDATE, Tears at Easter

This past Good Friday not only focused my mind on Jesus’ suffering and reconciling death, it also stirred an emotion laden memory. Easter Sunday not only reminded me of Christ’s victorious resurrection, it generated a deep longing—a longing paired with a decade old recollection. 

Waking from my doze in the economy section on a Singapore to London night flight, I struggled out of my seat, stumbled to the rear exit door stretching my cramped leg muscles, and leaned forward to peer down through the porthole. Ten kilometers below, the blackness of the Bay of Bengal contrasted with the specks of light along the shore of India.

Soon faint patches of light appeared below—dozens of hamlets, villages, and small towns. No car headlights streaming along freeways, no lit up cloverleaf intersections, no colored neon lights or blazing mall parking lots which typify the North American night scene, just hundreds of faint blobs of light clear to the horizon.

For half an hour I stood there, transfixed, as I watched hundreds of kilometers of Indian carpet unrolling underneath me, an endless dark pattern blotched with wisps of white and faint splotches of light.

Tears began to flow down my cheeks as I realized that these lights represented over a billion people—hundreds of millions illiterate—people loved by God, who knew nothing of Jesus’ reconciling sacrifice, who had no idea He conquered death. I prayed, “Oh Jesus, please use me to bring your Word to people like this. I don’t care how long it takes or how much it costs. Whatever it takes, do it. Use me, please.”

This weekend my eyes again stung with tears as I thought of the unimaginably large numbers of people all over the world, billions of them, who still have not had the chance to choose to follow Jesus, the Saviour who died for them.

Billions of people, loved by God, but trapped in traditional and secular world religions with little hope of ever hearing God’s message of love for them. How I long for the day when the good news of God’s love has been translated into the world’s last 2,000 languages—340 million people who still cannot read, or hear read to them, a single sentence of God’s Word in the language they know best.

Good Friday and Easter Sunday mean nothing to them. It’s enough to make a grown man cry.

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Notice, Remember, and Tell

I am rarely stuck for words, but this great-grandmother’s reply left me gaping like a dying codfish.

I had just finished leading a writers’ workshop based on Psalm 78:3-4 for several dozen retired people who wanted to leave a legacy of written “Family God-stories”. One elderly lady briefly told a fascinating story of how God had answered the prayers of her family during the beginning of the Great Depression.

She was just a small child but prayed earnestly for her Daddy to get a job. And he did, as a construction worker on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. When, after four and a half years, the bridge was opened on May 27, 1937, she and the rest of the family rode in the first motorcade to cross the bridge. 

After the workshop I asked if she had already written that story. “No, I haven’t,” she replied, “this is the first time I have ever told this story to anyone.” Huh? Never?! The first time!? Codfish time for Jack.

I discovered she had not even told her late husband, or any of her kids, grandkids or great-grandkids. For 75 years, two generations of her family born after her had been driving across that huge orange bridge regularly, never realizing it symbolized God’s provision for their grandfather’s family during those dark, desperate depression years of the 1930s.

As I drove home that day I wondered how many thousands of other Christians are failing to tell God-stories such as these, and thus robbing Him of thousands of opportunities to receive glory and praise.

Throughout the Bible God commands people to remember—147 times in the Old Testament and 70 times in the New Testament. “. . . things we learned from our ancestors, and we will tell them to the next generation. We will not keep secret the glorious deeds of the Lord.” Psalm 78:3-4. When the Israelites stopped telling the God-stories, their descendants fell into sin, over and over again.

We live in chaotic times. It is hard to notice and then remember. We are overloaded with information and have no time to think. That is Satan’s work. Our work is to stop, think, pray, and note the answers to our prayers. Keeping a diary is a great tool to help us think, reflect and remember. The weakest ink lasts longer than the most powerful memory.

Then, we need to tell and retell the God-stories in our lives: the answers to prayer; the protection from harm; the amazing provision—all the things that God has obviously done for us. Our kids, grandkids and great-grandkids need to know these things.

If we don’t notice them, we will forget. If we don’t remember we can’t tell the next generation. Through our negligence we keep secret what God has done and rob Him of the glory and praise due to Him.
Who wants to do that?

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Mandate, Emotion, Power, and Language

I was relaxed and comfortable in the cool, breezy dining room, looking forward to some excellent food and more great conversation. I sat with my family around the laden table with our hosts, a German family who, like us, served as missionaries in Brazil. As we chatted, my friend leaned back in his chair and called down the hall to his teenage daughter still working in the kitchen.
Elsa! Wir sind bereit. Kommt schnell! “Elsa! We’re ready. Come quickly!”
As I heard the loud voice, the urgent tone, and the last word, Schnell, a shock of fear shot through my system and I felt the icy hand of panic clench my insides.
Terror traveled from my childhood through thirty-five years of time and from Holland through eight thousand kilometres of space to jab fear into my heart once again.
I was seven years old, walking home from school with a classmate. As we took a shortcut past a warehouse, we noticed the door was partly open, so naturally we peered in. Suddenly a German soldier carrying his machine gun ran out of a guard shack behind us shouting, Achtung! Verschwinden Sie! Schnell! “Hey! Get away! Quick!” I had heard those words before, sometimes followed by shots . . . and screams.
So long ago. So far away. So many changes. I was now an adult, a husband, a father, a missionary. And this German missionary was no occupying enemy soldier—he was my friend, my colleague and a brother in Jesus.
What then triggered this vivid, emotion laden memory? Language. A specific language. The same language which had first impacted me emotionally. Had he called down that hallway in English, “Quick!!” or in Portuguese, “Rapido!!” I would not have reacted so emotionally.
Much of the power of language is in the emotion it evokes in the hearer. No wonder God used language to communicate His emotion laden Love letter to people. No wonder He uses thousands of languages to penetrate billions of human minds . . .  and hearts. No wonder He calls hundreds of thousands of His people to work together to bring His Word to every language on earth.
Currently God’s message is being translated into fifteen hundred languages. But two-thousand languages still await workers, and prayer partners, and finances.
The Church needs to listen to the urgency in His voice and get at it! Quickly! Rapido! Rapidement! Awjarê! Szybko! Snabbt! Raskt! Gyorsan! Brzo! Schnell!
To Bring Him Glory,
Jack

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Mandate, God, Prayer, or Coincidence?

In 1983, a group of 40,000 Sudanese people called the Tira were listed on the Bibleless Peoples Prayer Project as not having even a single word of the Bible translated into their language. Today, twenty-eight years later, many Tira are Christians and read the Bible in their own language.

Here’s what happened: 

  • In November of 1983, David and Ray, two American students signed up to pray for the Tira with the Bibleless Peoples Prayer Project.  
  • In May of 1986, Jerry and Jan promised to pray for this group.  
  • In March 1990, Jane and Margeanne committed themselves to pray.

In August 1990, a report came to the Prayer Project organizers that a young Tira man, Avajani, was studying linguistics and Bible translation techniques. The organizers wrote to encourage him with the news that three teams were praying for his people group. They gave the names and the dates when they began to pray. Avajani’s response was astonishing!

  • Avajani told them he became a Christian in November 1983, the month David and Ray began to pray.  
  • He was accepted for theological studies in May 1986, when Jerry and Jan started to pray. He heard about courses in Bible translation and was accepted as a student in March 1990, when Jane and Margeanne started to pray.  
  • A number of portions of the Bible were published during 1999-2001.

An atheist reading this sort of astonishing coincidence might well mutter to himself, “Hmm, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think that God was involved.”

God is definitely at work on planet Earth, and He invites us to join Him. He moves some to pray, and some to do hands on service. He wants every person to hear about Him in the language they know best.

Here are some links to help us join God in His work:

Blessings,
Jack


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