Tuesday, December 31, 2019

This One Thing I Do

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In 1959 Wycliffe Bible translators Al and Sue Graham answered God’s call to the mission field by going to the jungles of Brazil. A thousand-mile journey up the Amazon River they worked with the Sateré people, who were named after a gorgeous florescent insect that hovers above the canopy of the jungle.

Because of the low self-esteem of the Sateré, they were killing themselves off by suffocating their newborns. When the Graham's arrived, they only numbered 1,500. On top of their infanticide problem, the Sateré had no written language. The Grahams had their work cut out for them; before they could begin translating the Bible, they first had to invent a written language for the people they were trying to reach!

One verse that kept the Graham’s going through the long, grueling process was Philippians 3:13, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before…” Notice Paul’s motto of singular, laser-beam focus—this one thing I do!

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Sue Graham

During the early years of their ministry, the Graham’s also prayed that God would help them find a way to break through the Sateré. How could they relate the Gospel to them in a context they could understand? A few years into the project, the Graham’s heard the legend of the Wasidii (The original grandfather of the Sateré).  The Wasidii arrived in their land as a prisoner of unknown captors. While hidden in a cave, a “god” gave him ten rules for living and Wasidii carved them on a canoe paddle; five positive and five negative. The paddle still exists today and anthropologists who have examined the paddle cannot identify the writing or the wood. These rules had then been passed down to each generation’s chief. The legend promised that someday someone would come and explain the writing to them.

This was the Gospel key the Graham’s had been praying for. They were able to relate the legend of the Wasidii to the Ten Commandments and how God had given rules to live by. However, mankind had broken his laws and needed a Savior. When the Graham’s connected the dots for the people, a Gospel breakthrough happened.

By 1982, the tribes no longer killed their young and they had grown to over 5,000 with 9 flourishing churches. The New Testament translation was finished April 20, 1986. Al Graham went to be with the Lord in 2010, but Sue kept working diligently and on April 20, 2017 her translation of the Old Testament was complete.

Think of the legacy statement of this one couple. They lived out Phil 3:13 by focusing on one thing—bringing the Bible to an unreached people group. God did the rest.

As you plan for another year let me ask a question—do you have a long-term goal? You may not be translating the Bible on a frontier, but what’s the one thing you are focused on doing? All the heroes of the Bible had a single-minded focus. Noah built an Ark. Moses led a nation. David composed songs. Jesus carried a cross. Paul preached the Gospel. Can you say—"This one thing I do!”  
If not, let’s purpose in our hearts to fix our focus in 2020 and ask the Lord to show us what one thing we can do for His glory.   -DM


Tim LeHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Perhaps Today (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2001), 126.  

Monday, December 23, 2019

The Wonder of Christmas

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On Christmas Eve 1968, Apollo 8 astronauts James Lovell, Frank Borman and William Anders entered lunar orbit. They became the first humans to see the dark side of the moon, circling 10 times. Perhaps, the most poignant moment of the historic occasion happened when the astronauts decided to end their broadcast by reading from the creation account of Genesis. Later Frank Borman said of that Christmas Eve, “I was awestruck. With my thumb I could cover up the whole planet earth. I thought ‘This must be what God sees.’”[1]  Millions of people across the world watched, and the broadcast was the most watched TV program ever.

Fast forward less than one year to July 20, 1969. The Apollo 11 mission would put the first humans, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Adrian, on the lunar surface. By now the whole world was utterly fascinated. Experts say that over 600 million people around the globe (1/5 of world population) watched Armstrong take his “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” In the United States, 94 percent of people watching television were tuned into the event. Even CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite, who was usually cool and composed, was momentarily at a loss of words.[2]  

            But something funny happened, soon after the success of Apollo 11 people quit caring about the space program. Remember the old saying, “familiarity breeds contempt.” In the years that followed the public simply lost interest in going to the moon.  Surveys in newspapers such as the New York Times and the Philadelphia Sunday Bulletin found that the majority of Americans could not remember Neil Armstrong’s name just a year later.[3] By the time of the last moon mission, Apollo 17 in 1972, few people watched or even knew that it was happening. Chris Kraft, NASA’s first mission control flight director said, “The blush fell off the rose after Apollo 11. In the minds of many the mission was over. We had been there and done that.”[4]

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It’s human nature for our interest to fade once the novelty wears off. After a while, we can easily become bored with something, even when it’s as amazing as putting a man on the moon.

Do you find the same thing happens with Christmas? As you grow older the tree doesn’t glow as bright, the presents aren’t as exciting, and the anticipation of Christmas morning gets lost in the hustle and bustle. Many adults have heard the Christmas story so many times in the sermons, carols and pageants that the wonder of God becoming man has become ho-hum.

Ravi Zacharias observed, “Our souls yearn for a wonder that reaches beyond the dimensions of our finite minds, and if we don’t allow a wonder towards God, we’ll search for it elsewhere, in false gods . . . The older you get the more it takes to fill your heart with wonder and only God is big enough to do that.”[5]

Are you having trouble rekindling that child-like wonder this Christmas? Let me suggest at least four areas of Christmas, that in my estimation, will always stir up amazement in our hearts.

First, there is the wonder of Scripture. The birth of Christ fulfilled many ancient prophecies; 19 to be exact.[6] Not only does fulfilled prophecy prove that the Bible is uniquely inspired, but it authenticates Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. Several of these prophecies stagger the mind when you consider that they could only be fulfilled by God entering our time and space. For example, how could you accomplish a virgin conception (Is. 7:14)? How could you arrange circumstances so that you are born in a particular town—Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)? Moreover, how could you plan to be born in a very narrow window of time (Dan. 9:24-27)?    

Second, there is the wonder of the star. Remember the lyrics to the classic carol, “We Three Kings?” “Star of wonder, star of night / Star with royal beauty bright / Westward leading, still proceeding / Guide us to thy Perfect Light.” Astronomers and Bible scholars have wondered exactly what the celestial body was that led the wise men to the Christ child (Matt. 2:9). Some have speculated that it was a comet, others have said it was a conjunction of constellations, while some have said that it was the shekinah glory of God. Whatever it was, the lesson of the star is that God uses creative and beautiful ways to draw all men unto Himself.

Third, we must consider the wonder of the shepherds. The shepherds keeping their flocks on quiet, rolling hills of Bethlehem were privy to choirs of angels announcing the birth of Christ (Luke 2:9-14). These weren’t angels in disguise, because the Bible tells us they shined with “the glory of God” (Luke 2:9). We can only imagine how the shepherd’s mouths dropped and their knees buckled with they saw the brilliance of these celestial creatures. We are filled with fascination about angels, but the amazing thing is that according to 1 Peter 1:12, the angels “long to look” into gift of salvation we have been given.      

Finally, there is the wonder of the Savior. Perhaps, Charles Swindoll said it best, “The incarnation is a riddle wrapped in a mystery, stuffed inside an enigma.”[7] There’s nothing in world of fiction as incredible as the truth of God becoming a man. Mary’s heart swelled with awe as she reflected on her miraculous child (Luke 2:19). Isaiah said one Christ’s names would be “wonderful” (Is. 9:6) and Paul wrote, “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16). If the incarnation does not engender awe, I don’t know what will. The Creator was in a cradle. The Infinite became an infant. The Messiah lay in the straw of a manger. Deity wore diapers. Christ was is the earthly child of a Heavenly Father and the heavenly child of an earthly mother. As the Ancient of Days, when Jesus was born he was as ageless as His Father and older than His mother. His is the cradle that rocked the world, for when eternity invaded time Christ split our timeline in half and our world has never been the same since. -DM  

[1] JESSE GREENSPAN, “Remembering the Apollo 8 Christmas Eve Broadcast,” History, 17 Dec. 2018
[2] Tiffany Hsu, “The Apollo 11 Mission Was Also a Global Media Sensation,” The New York Times, 15 July 2019
[3] Franz Strasser & Ashley Semler, “Why Americans lost interest in putting men on the Moon,” BBC, 24 July 2014 <https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-us-canada-28450386/why-americans-lost-interest-in-putting-men-on-the-moon>
[4] Alex Stucky, “The Other Apollo Missions,” The Houston Chronicle, 18 July 2019 <https://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/space/mission-moon/article/The-other-Apollo-missions-Despite-cutbacks-14097551.php>
[5] Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God? (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1994), 89.
[6] David R. Reagan, “Prophetic Facts about the Nativity,” Lamb & Lion Ministries <https://christinprophecy.org/
[7] Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrates, Quotes and Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1998).

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Christmas: The End of Loneliness

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Christmas Eve 1906 was a historic day for humanity. Reginald Fessenden, a Canadian inventor and university professor who began his career working for Thomas Edison, figured out that by combining two frequencies together, radio could do more than simply transmit Morse code. It would be possible to speak over the airwaves. Thanks to him, radio became a sound medium.

Three days before Christmas Eve 1906, Fessenden had notified ships off the coast of Plymouth, Massachusetts to monitor the airwaves. At the appointed hour, 9:00 PM, for the first time in history a man’s voice moved through the atmosphere without wires. It was the beginning of what we call “radio.” According to his own account, Fessenden read the Christmas story from Luke 2, then he picked up his violin and played, “O Holy Night”—the first song broadcast in radio history.[1] (To listen to that broadcast click this link)

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Reginald Fessenden

2,000 years ago, there wasn’t such a thing as radio to spread the Good News of God’s Son breaking into our planet. However, God dispatched his own messenger service—throngs of angels, who announced to lowly shepherds outside Bethlehem that Christ was born (Luke 2:8-13). As the hymn says, “Fall on your knees / O hear the angels' voices / O night divine / O night when Christ was born.”

A commentator for NPR gave this interesting perspective on the historic 1906 moment, “It was the birth of a new thing that would utterly change the century that followed. On the very eve of the day set aside to commemorate that birth described in the Gospel of Luke. And what was born was an end to loneliness.”[2]

Thanks to Fessenden, a fellow human being could whisper into another’s ear from far away and reach the innermost recesses of the imagination. But in an even more profound way, the birth of Christ into this world is an end to loneliness. Don’t forget the prophetic name of the Christ child is “Immanuel”—God with us (Isaiah 7:14).

Prophets weren’t enough. Apostles wouldn’t do. Angels wouldn’t suffice. God sent more than miracles and sermons. He sent His Son. There is no greater mystery or message than Immanuel. Didn’t He say, “Lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20) and “I will never leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5)? At Bethlehem we see God with us, at Calvary we see God for us and at Pentecost we see God in us. The One who came to walk our streets and be touched by our infirmities, also says He will make our heart His home.  

Max Lucado wrote, “In God’s great gospel, he not only sends, he becomes; he not only looks down, he lives among; he not only talks to us, he lives with us. He swims in Mary’s womb. Wiggles in the itchy manger straw. Totters as he learns to walk. He knows hurt. His siblings called him crazy. He knows hunger. Tempted in the wilderness by the Devil to make bread out of stones. He knows exhaustion. Sleeping in a storm-tossed boat. He knows betrayal. He gave Judas three years of love. In exchange, Judas gave him a traitor’s kiss. Most of all He knows sin. Not his own, but yours. He knows the agony of the Cross the price it cost to have those sins forgiven (1 Peter 3:18). Before you knew you needed a Savior, you had one.”[3]

Christmas is the end of loneliness, because it was the Savior’s first step towards the Cross where He would do away with the sin that separated us from God (Eph. 2:13). -DM       

[1] David Jeremiah, “O Holy Night: The Story Behind the Song,” Turning Points, December 2019, p. 8.
[2] Dean Olsher, “Christmas Eve and the Birth of ‘Talk’ Radio,” NPR: All Things Considered, 22 December 2006
[3] Max Lucado, The Cure for the Common Life (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 66-67.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Joy to the World: The Story Behind the Song

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The Christmas season would hardly seem complete without the singing of one of the most beloved carols of all time, Joy to the World.  The hymn's author, Isaac Watts (1675-1748), is universally acknowledged as "The Father of English Hymnody" because he wrote over 600 songs. 

According to tradition, Watts began writing verses as a child and showed signs of his prodigy early on. In his teen years he complained that the congregational songs in church were difficult to sing, not mention bland and boring for his taste. Watts' father, who pastored a small congregation in Southampton, England, challenged the budding musician after a Sunday service, “Well son, if you think you can why don't you write some hymns that are better?” 

Instead of feeling defeated, Isaac took up his father's challenge. He showed his father a hymn that he had written, Joy to the World. Apparently, Mr. Watts had no inkling that his son was so gifted. He eagerly presented his son's composition at church the next Sunday. It was so well-received he was asked to write another for the following week.  Watts wrote a new hymn every week for the next four years. More than a century after Watts, in 1839 American composer Lowell Mason, set Watts’ words to a new melody taken from Handel's Messiah.[1] 

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Interestingly, if you notice the lyrics of the song, you will see nothing about shepherds, a manger, wise men, angels, or any other element that we normally associate with the Christmas story. The reason is that Isaac Watts did not write Joy to the World to be a Christmas song. The inspiration for this song came from Watts’ study of Psalm 98 which he thought pointed forward to the universal jubilation which would arrive as a result of Christ's Second Coming and Millennial Kingdom. Just think about the lyrics for a moment.

Joy to the world! The Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room,
And heav’n and nature sing.

Did the world receive Christ at His first coming? Not according to John 1:11, “He came unto His own and His own people did not receive Him.”

Joy to the earth! the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ,
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.

Nature did not rejoice when Christ came the first time. There was darkness and earthquakes when He died on the cross (Matt. 27:45, 51). However, when He returns to set up His Kingdom the creation will respond according to Isaiah 11:6-9.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love. 

The nations haven’t yet recognized Jesus as King of kings, but they will according to Phil 2:9-11, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Perhaps one day we will sing this hymn one day in the Millennial Kingdom and every word of it will be literally fulfilled. I hope you’ve made plans to be there. The way you gain entrance into the Kingdom is by bowing and recognizing the Lordship of Jesus Christ today.    -DM

[1] Robert J. Morgan, Come Let Us Adore Him: Stories Behind the Most Cherished Christmas Hymns (Nashville, TN: Countryman, 2005), 20-21.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Dreamin' of Christmas

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Some time ago I read a fascinating true story in Guideposts magazine about a couple (Joyce & Ken) who had a scary moment that led to an emergency trip to the hospital. They wrote to the magazine sharing their amazing story.  

By the time Joyce got Ken to the hospital, he was ghost white. Nurses screamed for the crash cart, knowing he was near death. Doctors told Joyce that Ken was bleeding internally. He would need immediate blood transfusions to keep pace with his blood loss until they could find where the bleeding was coming from and patch him up. Eventually, Ken’s condition stabilized.

Joyce was utterly drained from the experience. In a quiet moment she muttered a soft prayer, “God help us through this night,” then she dozed off. Suddenly, a frightening dream gripped her. She was in a hospital room filled with floor-to-ceiling mist. Joyce could see Ken slowly sliding through the misty wall. And she knew if he went through, he would die.

She grabbed his arm, putting one hand above his elbow and the other just below it. She was tugging with all her might but was losing him to the mist. Joyce pulled one last time, and he was free.

When Joyce awoke, she called a nurse in to check on Ken. Nurses noticed something was wrong and began working feverishly. Joyce was asked to step out of the room while they made emergency adjustments. About a half-hour later, a doctor came to Joyce and explained that Ken’s transfusion line had clogged, shutting off the blood he so badly needed. “It's a good thing someone went to check on him or he would have surely died,” the doctor said. “How did you know?” he asked.

Joyce looked down at Ken's arm. He had black and blue marks just above and below his elbow in the places she had clutched in her dream. Suddenly, Joyce knew God had answered her prayers.[1]

Studying the Christmas story again I was reminded how dreams pervaded the lives of those involved. In the first two chapters of Matthew I counted five dreams. An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, convincing him to take Mary as his wife and to name her child “Jesus” (1:20-21). The wise men had an angel visit them in a dream telling them not to return to Herod (2:12). In the next verse Joseph had another angelic visitor in his dream instructing him to take Mary and baby Jesus to Egypt so they could escape the clutches of Herod (2:13). The Bible records that Joseph had two more dreams after this in which God gave him specific instructions (2:19, 2:22).    

Naturally, the questions arises—does God still speak through dreams today? Honestly, there’s nothing in the Scriptures that says it’s impossible. God’s primary means of communication to us today is through His word and His Spirit. But if He chooses to use a dream He can.

I’ve read numerous stories of people in closed countries having dreams/visions that result in them coming to faith in Christ. Accounts of people in third world countries being told to go to such and such a place at such and such a time to speak with God's messenger, only to bump into a missionary at the exact place and time.  In fact, Lee Strobel writes in his book The Case for Miracles, “More Muslims have become Christians in the last couple of decades than in the previous fourteen hundred years since, Muhammad, and it’s estimated that a quarter to a third of them experienced a dream or vision before their salvation experience.”[2] 

I would not be so quick to put God in a box and dismiss these stories. At the same time, we must be discerning and not be so gullible that we establish doctrine on a dream (1 John 4:1-3).

The dreams of Joseph in the Christmas story are a powerful reminder that God is not shut out of our world. He breaks through in our sleep. He interrupts the ordinary. He is there and He is not silent. 


[1] “An Inspiring True Story from Guideposts’ ‘Miracles Do Happen’” <https://www.guideposts.org/better-living/entertainment/books/an-inspiring-true-story-from-guideposts-miracles-do-happen>
[2]  Lee Strobel, The Case for Miracles (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018), 139-141.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Gratitude: The Natural Response of the Rescued

12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 1:12-14

Sophie Kilsman, 89, remembers the day in April 1945 when American troops liberated her and hundreds of other Jews from the Salzwedel concentration camp. It was there that her Nazi overlords forced her to work making their bullets during the last years of World War II. “When we saw the iron gates swing open and American troops coming to our rescue we thought ‘My God, they are angels sent to rescue us,’” Sophie said.

In 2019 The Detroit News ran a feature about Sophie’s Holocaust survivor story, who had been a Detroit native for decades. That same day the article appeared in the paper, another Detroit native, 95-year-old Doug Harvey, read the story as was immediately fascinated. And with good reason—turns out, Harvey was a private in the 84th Infantry Division that liberated Klisman and others from the Salzwedel concentration camp. The sights and sounds of that day never left Harvey, “I remember well the happy women on the road waving at us. It was the only time in our fight across Germany when we received such a welcome.”

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Harvey wrote a letter to The Detroit News about his connection with Sophie Kilsman and the newspaper worked out a meeting for the two. The happy reunion occurred in May 2019. Among friends and family, the two hugged and became fast friends. The reporter on the scene wrote, “Sophie looked up at Harvey with an expression of amazement, as if he had just arrived, a young man in uniform carrying a rifle, swinging open the gates of a Nazi death camp, the stars and stripes emblazoned on the side of the tanks and half-tracks nearby. ‘I’m very fortunate to meet you, and to thank you for a lifetime. You gave me my life.’ she said.”[1]    

As I read that incredible story I am reminded of simple truth: Gratitude is the natural response of the rescued.

Imagine you fall off the side of an ocean liner and, not knowing how to swim, begin to drown. Someone on the deck spots you, flailing in the water and throws you a life preserver. It lands directly in front of you and, just before losing consciousness, you grab hold for dear life.

They pull you up onto the deck, and you cough the water out of your lungs. People gather around, rejoicing that you are safe and waiting expectantly while you regain your senses.

After you finally catch your breath, you open your mouth and say: “Did you see the way I grabbed onto that life preserver? How tightly I held on to it? I was all over that thing!”

Needless to say, it would be a bewildering and borderline insane response. To draw attention to the way you cooperated with the rescue effort denigrates the whole point of what happened, which is that you were saved.

A much more likely chain of events is that you would immediately seek out the person who threw the life preserver, and you would thank them. Not just superficially, either. You would embrace them, ask them their name, invite them to dinner and seek to build a friendship.

As saved people how much more should we live every day in gratitude towards our Savior. Because of Christ’s liberating mission, we have been rescued from a horror worse than a Nazi concentration camp—hell and eternal separation from God. There is nothing greater that God could do for us than what He’s already done. As Charles Spurgeon said, “While others are congratulating themselves, I have to sit humbly at the foot of the cross and marvel that I'm saved at all.”


[1] Gregg Krupa, “Holocaust survivor meets ex-GI: 'You gave me my life,’” The Detroit News, 13 May 2019 <https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/oakland-county/2019/05/13/holocaust-survivor-meets-ex-gi-you-gave-me-my-life/1128611001/>

Monday, November 18, 2019

Hudson Taylor's Midnight Miracle

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6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.   James 1:6-8

1857 was a difficult year for Hudson Taylor. He had been a missionary to China for four years when he contracted smallpox. By November of that year, Taylor was recovering physically, but financially he and his associate, John Jones, were in dire straits. All their funds had been depleted in taking care of the needs of their ministry. Now Taylor and Jones were facing starvation. They had petitioned churches back in England for support, but in those days it took weeks for letters to travel the thousands of the miles across two continents. There was no telling when or if they would get any help from home.

The two missionaries started looking around their meager house for objects of value to sell. Taylor wrote, “How the LORD was going to provide for us we knew not; but over our mantelpiece hung a scroll upon which the following was written in the Chinese language— Jehovah-Jireh, ‘The LORD will provide’—and looking upon that promise kept us from doubting God’s ability to meet our great need.”

That’s when Taylor spotted the one object of value in their home that would sell easily—a cast iron cook stove. If they could get the stove across the river and into the nearest city, they could surely sell it as scrap to a foundry.

With no food in their cupboards, they loaded their stove on a horse drawn cart. They hadn’t made it far when they reached the river they had to cross. A violent storm had blown through the countryside a few days prior, and the river was turned into a rushing torrent, washing away the bridge that would take them to the other side. Unable to pass, the two turned the cart around and walked many miserable miles back home.

Upon arriving back at their home with the stove and the cart, the men went into their kitchen and scraped the last of spoonfuls of cocoa from a can, mixed it with water and drank it down. Then they informed one of their Chinese servants they were going into their study to pray and were not to be disturbed because they were petitioning God to do a miracle, then they shut the door and began crying out to God.  
The men prayed late into the night. Suddenly, their desperate vigil was interrupted by a knocking on the door. The Chinese servant burst into the room, “Teacher, Teacher, here are letters.” No mail was expected, but here it was delivered to their house in the middle of the night. When they opened them up, they found several checks from their ministry partners in England. There was enough money inside to supply their needs for the next year. The checks were sent months in advance without prior knowledge of Taylor’s need. The folks in England didn’t know of Taylor’s plight, but God did—and He was right on time!  

Taylor later wrote concerning the importance of prayer to his ministry: “I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.”[1]  -DM

[1] William J. Petersen, 100 Amazing Answers to Prayer (Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2003), 159-161.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Treasure from Trash

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When the prophet Elisha heard about the financial straits of a widow, he asked her a pointed question, “Tell me, what do you have in the house?” (2 Kings 4:2). In other words, the prophet intended to meet the need of the widow with what she had on hand. As she obeyed the word of the Lord, she witnessed a miraculous multiplication.

While mulling over this passage, I saw an incredible news clip on 60 Minutes about a music teacher in Paraguay named Favio Chavez. He grew up in one of Paraguay’s most impoverished cities—Cateura, which is home to a slum that’s literally built on a landfill. More than 1,500 tons of trash gets dumped into the landfill every day. About 1,000 residents make their living by picking through the trash with long hooks called ganchos (hence the garbage pickers are called gancheros). These incredibly poor scavengers look for things they can sell—metal, plastic, glass, etc.
Chavez was burdened about the children who grew up in these slums. He knew that most of them would never escape poverty and many would resort to drugs or gangs or become gancheros. So Chavez had an epiphany, he would start a free music school for slum children where he would teach them how to play an instrument.
He started by giving away the five instruments in his possession to students. Before long Chavez was inundated by eager and willing children who wanted to learn, but had no way of buying an instrument. Instead of getting discouraged or turning the kids away, Chavez started looking around and what he had to work with—which was trash.

He was friends with a ganchero, Nicholas Gomez, who could find almost anything in the mountains of garbage. Chavez told his friend, “I want you to look for a special kind of trash—anything that we could use to recycle and build into an instrument.” So, Mr. Gomez started farming the landfill and crafting the trash into instruments—he made a cello from an oil can, a flute from old pipes, a violin from a beat-up aluminum bowl, drums made from old x-ray skins.

Once the kids became proficient enough to play classical pieces, like Beethoven and Mozart, Chavez started uploading videos on YouTube that went viral. Chavez’s music school is called “Landfill Harmonic” and not only has he taught hundreds of students how to play with instruments made from garbage, but they have received invitations from around the world for their orchestra to come and play to packed audiences.[1]

While other people saw nothing but trash and poverty, Chavez saw hope and potential. Imagine if we had eyes to see the potential around us by beginning with what God has already given us?
A half full jar or oil wasn’t much, but it was more than enough for God to work with.  As the old song says, “Little is much when God is in it.” Instead of limiting what God can do by focusing only on what we don’t have, why not take what you have and fully surrender it to the Lord. -DM

[1] “Young Musicians Are Living Their Dreams, Thanks to a Recycled Orchestra,” CBS, 27 September 2016

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Gladys Aylward: God's Second Choice

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One day while cleaning a wealthy couple’s house, Gladys Aylward came across a Christian magazine. She flipped through the pages and read an article written by a 72-year-old female missionary serving in China. The missionary pleaded for anyone willing to come to China to help spread the Gospel. That article changed Gladys' life, for she knew at that moment God was calling her to China. But how? She was just a poor maid with little education.

She applied to become a missionary to China, but she failed missionary training school. The director of the school told her she wasn’t smart enough to learn Chinese, and they would not accept her. But Gladys was determined. If the mission board would not send her to China, she would find her own way there. She got her pocketbook and pulled out the few coins she owned and prayed, “Oh Lord, here’s my Bible! Here’s my money! Here’s me.”

Gladys began hoarding every cent to purchase passage to China. She could not afford to go by boat, so she decided she would travel by train across Asia. On October 15, 1932 she left England for China. Her journey took several weeks, because halfway she was thrown off the train by Russian soldiers. She was forced to walk or ride a donkey the rest of the way.

Gladys arrived just a few days before the aging missionary she was going to assist died unexpectedly. There she was thousands of miles from home with no one—except God. Gladys didn’t know what to do next, so she prayed, “Lord, show me your will.” The Lord opened a door she could have never opened herself.

For many years, the feet of Chinese girls were wrapped tightly at birth to keep them from growing big. The Chinese thought small feet were prettier. However, the Chinese government created a new law which said that all foot-wrapping must end. The Chinese government was looking for officers who would go from village to village telling people that foot-wrapping was now illegal. Gladys applied for the job and go it.

She immediately recognized the opportunity to spread the Gospel. Gladys traveled thousands of miles going into small towns taking off foot bandages and telling Bible stories. Through her efforts many people started coming to faith in Christ. In the process, she adopted over 100 orphans and the Chinese people gave her a nickname, “The Virtuous One.”[1]  

Gladys Aylward died in 1970 after touching thousands of lives for Christ. Yet, she never saw herself as a hero. She wrote, “I wasn't God's first choice for China. I don't know who it was. It must have been a well-educated man. I don't know what happened. Perhaps he died. Perhaps he wasn't willing. All I know is God looked down and saw little Gladys Aylwardand God said, “Well, she’s willing.”[2]

We often despise the thought of failure, but Aylward’s story encourages us that even our failures lead to success when we follow the Lord’s leading. God uses the weak as opposed to the strong, those who are willing to look beyond adversity, those who are willing to let God work in them and through them completely, those who are daring enough to trust God with the unknown. -DM

[1] Robert J. Morgan, On This Day (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997), October 15.
[2] Fern Neal Stocker, Gladys Aylward (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1988), 108.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Those Wasted Years

Image result for old farm

I looked upon a farm one day
That once I used to own;
The barn had fallen to the ground
The fields were overgrown.

The house in which my children grew,
Where I had lived for years--
I turned to see it broken down,
And brushed aside the tears.

I looked upon my soul one day
To find it too had grown
With thorns and nettles everywhere,
The seeds neglect has sown.

The years had passed while I had cared
For things of lesser worth;
The things of Heaven I let go
While minding things of earth.

To Christ I turned with bitter tears,
And cried, "Oh Lord, forgive!
I haven't much time left for Thee,
Not many years to live."

The wasted years forever gone,
The days I can't recall;
If I could live those days again,
I'd make Him Lord of All.

--Author Unknown 

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Forgiveness in a Courtroom

Image result for amber guyger hug 

On September 6, 2018, Amber Guyger—an off-duty patrol officer in Dallas—entered the apartment of 26-year-old accountant Botham Jean. She later said she thought it was her own apartment and mistook Jean for a burglar, shooting and killing him.

One year later, on October 1, 2019, she was found guilty of murder. On October 2, she was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Botham Jean’s brother Brandt was allowed to give a victim-impact statement, and he addressed Amber Guyger directly. The result was a beautiful Christian testimony—truly salt and light in a dark and twisted world.

“If you truly are sorry, I can speak for myself, I forgive, and I know if you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you. And I don’t think anyone can say it—again I’m speaking for myself—but I love you just like anyone else. And I’m not gonna say I hope you rot and die just like my brother did, but I presently want the best for you. And I wasn’t going to ever say this in front of my family or anyone, but I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you, because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want you to do. And the best would be to give your life to Christ. I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do. I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug, please? Please?”[i]

Amber and Brandt embraced with tears flowing in the middle of the courtroom. Moments later, Judge Tammy Kemp, returned to the courtroom with her personal Bible in hand. She gifted it to the officer, Amber R. Guyger, and pointed to John 3:16. Then, as the woman convicted of murder reached out her arms, the judge, still in her black robe and pearled necklace, wrapped her in an embrace.[ii]

A former Dallas police officer, Amber Guyger, was sentenced to 10 years for murder in an unusual police shooting case. At the end of the trial, Judge Tammy Kemp gave her a Bible and a hug.

Some in the media these actions in the courtroom “crossed the line,” but no one could argue with the power of forgiveness. I have said many times we are never more like Jesus than when we forgive our enemies. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” Jesus cried from the cross (Luke 23:34).

Along with a personal transformation that comes from a conversion to Christ, forgiveness may be the most profound way that the Gospel breaks through the callousness and “get-even” mentality of our world. That’s because forgiveness is not natural; it’s supernatural. It takes the power of Christ working in us to release those who have hurt us. As C.S. Lewis has said, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God had forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

Friend, who do you need to forgive today? I’m not saying it will be easy, but with Christ it’s possible. Don’t carry that grudge, that pain, that burden any longer. Through prayer, express to God that you relinquish the right to collect debt on any level and to release your bitterness. You can enjoy the freedom of forgiveness today and see God work in your heart in amazing ways.


[i] Justin Taylor, “He Asked to Hug the Woman Who Killed His Brother: ‘I Forgive You.’ ‘I Love You.’ ‘Give Your Life to Christ.’” The Gospel Coalition, 2 October 2019 <https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/asked-hug-woman-killed-brother-forgive-love-give-life-christ/>
[ii]  Sarah Mervosh and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, “Amber Guyger’s Judge Gave Her a Bible and a Hug. Did That Cross a Line?” New York Times, 4 October 2019 <https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/04/us/amber-guyger-judge-tammy-kemp-hug.html>