08 July 2012

God At Work

The following testimony Caroline is about to share could be told in a few short sentences, but I think telling it simply will rob the Lord of His glory. We don't share the long version of testimonies often, but it seemed right to do so this time, to show just how God works, and why we say again and again that New Brothers Fellowship is a ministry by the Body of Christ. I believe you will be blessed. -Doug

It has been a long month. Stella is again in the hospital, but she is truly an Ohio Buckeye - a very tough nut to crack! We are grateful for that tenacity and strength of will. It is how she walks out her faith, as well. No matter what has confronted her in this life, her trust in the Lord is unwavering. 

Stella is also unwavering in her desire to win souls for Christ. Last Sunday, after a very nice morning at First Church of the Nazarene in Lynn (Pastor William Winn), we headed to the hopsital to visit her. Before leaving for the evening's service at The Farm, we asked if she would like to pray. Well, of course, she said, "Of course!" There are three things Stella will never turn down: a chance to hear The Word of God, a chance to pray together, and a cup of hot coffee.

However, there is only one thing she truly desires on this earth, and that is to win souls.
 She is an evangelist through and through! Even though she had hardly had any rest for almost two days, she prayed easily and fervently from the depths of her heart: "Lord, may ONE person give their life to You today! Just one person! Let one soul be saved today!"  Faith rose up in me as she prayed - a fresh expectation. Yes, Lord, one soul!

Later at The Farm, as I went about my job of laying out the tracts and greeting cards, I came across a booklet for new Christians. I hesistated, because Sunday nights usually have an emphasis on discipleship, not evangelism. It reminded me, though, of a booklet Mother had given me to send Doug when he was first saved, so it made me think of her and I remembered her appeal to God for one soul. I decided to leave it out.

We have two hours at The Farm on Sunday night, with a ten minute break in between. That is when I give out the greeting cards that have been donated by the Body of Christ. I've received cards from Christians across the country, and during the break on Sunday I was doing a brisk business. At one point, I noticed two young men reading through each card. They looked like they were having trouble finding what they wanted, so I asked if I could help. They told me they were each trying to find a card for their mother, and wanted just the right one. I assured them their mothers would be happy with any card, but they weren't convinced. They had to read each one!

As they continued to peruse the cards, I did what I do every time I'm at The Farm: try to get to know the men. I started as I usually do, asking their names. The first young man said his name was Rueben, which made me excited. Not only is it a biblical name (I always tell men when they have biblical names), but Rueben was the name of a man my Mother ministered to over the course of twenty years. Her Rueben had been the prodigal son of an important family in our church; he was a gentle man, with a ferocious addiction. Thankfully, like The Prodigal Son in the Bible, he did finally come back to his Father. I thought of him as I looked into Rueben's young face.

When I asked the second man his name, I thought he said Jay. He corrected me: "Jake. Jake. Like Jacob." Well, you know I got excited then! Here stood before me Jacob and Rueben, two mighty men of God! I told them they shared names with two great and important men. Despite my enthusiasm, though, their expressions remained lifeless, blank. I then asked if they had ever been to chapel before, and they said, "No." I encouraged them to stay, and Nate, another young man at the table who I'd been talking to before, chimed in: "Oh, it's changed my life! It's great! As soon as I heard Chaplain Doug['s voice on the intercom, I came right over."

Rueben finally found his card and left, but Jake took a little longer. I didn't follow them after they left the table, because it started to rain and the wind began to blow cards and envelopes to the floor. By the time I got that situation under control, the second hour had begun, and Doug was introducing the evening's speaker, Dan Boucher, a long-time prison volunteer and NBF Board Member. That was when I noticed Jake and Rueben sitting together in the back row. Praise God!

As Dan began to speak, he said he had just met a man who was there for the first time. He said, "This man is named Rueben." Well, I couldn't believe it. He went on to talk about the biblical significance of that name, taking us to the very passage in scripture that talks about Jacob and Rueben's birth. What a confrmation to these young men! I was so excited, but what was especially thrilling to me was that Dan had not met Jacob, and he had no idea I had made such a fuss about their names earlier, but once again they were hearing the message that they were important to God.

Then, though Sunday nights usually have a discipleship emphasis, Dan preached a beautiful gospel message. He ended with ten minutes to spare, which Doug used to make an invitation to salvation - as clear as I have ever heard him give. I sat in the back praying. Oh, Lord, let's have two souls tonight! Give them faith to raise their hands! But, no hands went up.

Or, so I thought!

There is a new volunteer on Sunday nights. His name is Tomes, from Trinity Evangelical Church in North Reading. While Doug was making the invitation, he was scanning the room. His eyes saw what Doug's eyes missed: Rueben raised his hand! So, Tomes went up to Rueben after the closing prayer, and he and Doug prayed with Rueben and lead him to the Cross. I was packing up tracts and cards, when I looked over and saw them laying hands on him. Incredible! One soul! Thank You, Jesus!

And, he was truly transformed. When I joined them after praying, Rueben's countenance was changed. His eyes were bright, and his face was alive. Incredible! What a work of God.

By the time I joined the circle, Tom, another long-time volunteer and NBF Board Member who plays bass on Sunday nights, filled me in on how Dan came to meet Rueben in the first place. He said, "Dan had come over to say hello, and of all things, Rueben came up to me to ask how I'd learned to play bass so well." That was how Dan met Rueben, and
how Rueben met Jesus!

So, this is techinically where the story ends, but I just want to ask you to consider how many people were involved in it's telling. Think for just a minute about the many members of the Body of Christ the Holy Spirit used to bring this one soul to salvation. He used:
  • Those who gave tracts
  • Those who gave cards
  • Those who prayed
  • Those who gave financially
  • Those who volunteered to be there that night, and that night there were men from FOUR different churches, and four different denominations, and each played a part in this man's salvation story. What a wonder! What won't God do for the sake of one soul?

The next day, while we were visiting Stella, she was discouraged. "I just want to win souls for Christ. I used to pass out tracts, but now I can't even do that." 

"But, Mother," Doug said, "You won't believe what happened last night. Remember, we prayed together and you asked the Lord for one soul?" We told her about Rueben, and you can be sure that was a blessing and encouragement to her. I hope this has been a blessing and encouragement to you, too. If you are one of "those," you have played a part in Rueben's testimony, and in the testimony of many other men whose stories we do not usually share in such detail. 

Oh, about Jacob: he had been called from the service, so he missed most of Dan's message. We are believing God will use Rueben to bring him back to chapel, or even to lead him to Christ himself! Please, keep these men in prayer. Please, keep praying for

Some Thoughts on "Hotel Rwanda"

I'd been looking forward to seeing it.  I knew it would be a excellent film.  I knew the acting was going to be incredible.  I knew it would be informative.  I knew it would be a completely fulfilling movie experience, as good as I'd heard, and worthy of all the awards and accolades it's received.

However, I had no idea it was going to speak to me so deeply.

No, I'm not going to start protesting human rights or dive deeper into politics in order to fight for social justice across the world.  Quite the contrary.

After I'd turned off the movie and while I was sitting in my bathroom weeping into a wad of toilet paper, I thought to myself: Who was the U.S. President then? Who can we blame for this? Then something happened. It was as if the Lord was turning my head and redirecting my line of vision.  I was suddenly looking down at the earth from the heavens. I could see the continents, and I was  trying to find Rwanda on the African piece of the planet.

That was when I realized it didn't actually matter what country it was where this happened. God didn't care about Rwanda, He cared about the people in Rwanda. And, the people in every other nation on this planet.  He doesn't see the borders between countries. He sees the people. He sees the million bodies of the slain people in Rwanda that lined the roads for miles and miles, filling ditches and covering fields. These are people He so loves that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for them. To save them---not from this life, but from the eternal death to come.

As I was watching Don Cheadle's performance, I kept reminding myself of the real man who was willing to put his own life on the line for others. This man, just a regular man, was willing to give everything to save those who were helpless and defenseless against their enemy.

Wait. Wasn't God asking the same of me? Wasn't I supposed to be willing to lay down my life for those who are defenseless against the Enemy of their soul? Isn't that what God has called us all to do?  

So many Christians have taken up social causes and concerns, from abortion to human trafficking to crimes against children. It's not that these things aren't worthy concerns. They are terribly wrong acts against God.  That they are wrong---in fact, sin---is why I think we need to question making them, or supporting them as, a cause. Some Christians have built their entire faith and Christian walk around a cause that essentially boils down to trying to stop people from sinning. "Stop killing!" "Stop raping women!" "Stop unlawful behavior!"

Yet, we were not given the authority to do that, to stop people from sinning. Only the Holy Spirit can convict us of sin, and only the blood of Jesus can break those bondages. As Christians, we have the answer for the one who is bound. It's called the Good News, and that is what we are called to preach. Why are we trying to do the Holy Spirit's job, and not the one He has actually given us to do?  We've been commissioned to tell the lost how to be saved in order that they may have this power from on high. We should be prepared to lay down our lives in order to get the truth of the Cross to them, not the message that they should stop sinning. Who cares if anyone is spared from sin, but still left to die and go to Hell? It's reverse legalism. And, it's terrifying to me that the church has made this their gospel.

I really have to ask myself why have I spent so many hours of my life caring about politics and political issues, when there are people living and dying without Jesus. Why am I here, except to win the lost? Am I willing to I lay down my political activism at Christ's feet and pick-up His cross instead?

I know that many will object to this message, and I can hear their arguments all ready. I do respect people for speaking out against injustice, and I don't think we are supposed to not care that these things happen. However, I believe our approach has mostly been wrong, and I believe the proof of that is in the fruit of these efforts, and in the lack of souls in the church.

After forty years of pro-life activism, where's the fruit? Why aren't churches full of single mothers with children? Most churches don't have a single mother's small group, or a ministry to teen moms, or even a well-staffed nursery! Not to mention that most churches have a pitiful children's ministry that is almost a second-thought. And, if so many Christians care so much about children and babies, where are the hordes of Christian foster parents? Why isn't every Christian's car full of neighborhood kids coming to Sunday School? How many churches have given up on VBS, because they couldn't find enough volunteers?

Imagine with me what would happen if instead of giving $10 a month to stop human trafficking, Christians instead stopped patronizing pornography websites. What if, instead of protesting abortion, Christians began volunteering to teach Sunday School? What would happen if Christians stopped sending their money to conservative political lobbyists, and instead gave that money to missions? And, what if, instead of sending money to a charity that will feed the hungry, we gave our time and money towards opening a food pantry and soup kitchen in our own church? A rock star tells us to care about this, or care about that, and we jump to answer his call. We need to stop for a moment and ask ourselves what  the cause of Christ is first. What cause did He die for, and what cause did He call us to die for, too? Did He come to carry a sign in protest?  Is that the example we are supposed to follow? No, He came to carry a Cross.

Please, don't get me wrong. My heart is stirred with compassion when I hear of the needs around the world. I wish another baby never had to be aborted again. I want to build wells in Africa, too! I care about these causes. I love meeting needs! However, I know it's a lot easier to give money, than to give myself. And, it's a lot easier to give myself to a man-made cause, than to give myself to the cause of Christ. I have been lead astray by the temptation to "do good" through a $5 or $500 gift, instead of actually "doing good" and living a life that will make a difference.

 If you are still reading this, please ask yourself this question: What am I doing to support the cause of Christ? If you are not giving of your time, talent, and money to the cause of reaching the lost with the good news of John 3:16, I urge you to seek God and reconsider your choices.

After writing this,I came across the following quote.
‎"Loving Him is to be our cause. He can take care of a lot of other causes without us, but He can’t make us love Him with all our heart. that’s the work we must do. Anything else is an imitation.” (Keith Green)