Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The World for Christ

A friend I love deeply shared with me a quote. A missionary to Japan had written on the first page of his Bible. It read:

" I for Japan
Japan for the world
The world for Christ
and All for God."
- Ganzo Uzimura -

My friend then compared the passion Uzimura had for Japan to the affection I have for my country. While I might seem to have a particular heart for the souls of my French compatriots, I cannot say that my heart for them is any stronger than for the Saoudi Arabs or the Berber or any other people group on the face of this earth. Only, by daily living among a people, the heart grows fond and cries out for a nation that is stubbornly refusing to drink water though dying in the desert of unbelief.
May we have a heart for our nations, but may we also have a global passion to see God worshiped among every people group. The greatest expression of love for a people group is not water, medicine, roads or food. If we give all these, but fail to show them the surpassing value of Christ, we have hardly begun to show them love. To love is to tell of God's grace and Jesus' love on the cross of Calvary.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Much to say but little time to write

I've been silent for several weeks now. My grandmother's death has had something to do in it, but mostly I've just allowed myself to become tired. When physically tired I'm easily discouraged and can even become depressed. Thank God I know myself now and simply do not allow myself to make life changing decisions when I am this tired, as
my feelings are all wrong.
But I've had much on my mind and much that I would have liked to write about. I just never seem to get around to putting it on paper. I'm preaching in my church this Sunday, so I will be obliged to write. I'll certainly put a summary of my sermon on the blog. It will be on Luke 7, the passage where the prostitute pours perfume on Jesus' feet. Also, rather than try to post my thoughts chronologically, the funeral has been grounds for much thought, I decided to just write.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

OK, so death is gain, now what?

I've spent the last month studying the letter to the Philippians. The passage that has attracted most my attention is the following:
 "it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Philippians 1:20-21:
I seem to know, realize and appreciate that death is a gain for me. Indeed, death will give me what I cannot have in this world, namely Jesus in full splendour and worth and the ability to appreciate him. In this world, my senses are too dulled by sin to love Jesus.
Now, I must understand what Paul meant by the other part, "To live is Christ". For Paul seemed to express that he couldn't choose between being in heaven with Jesus and staying on earth to bear fruit. For me, the choice is still too easy, so I must seek to understand what he meant.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Get the Old Ladies and You Win the War

While distributing the monthly flyer in my village, I thought of a video I'd watched. The video was made by Mars Hill Church in Seattle. On the web it is known as the "Banned Church-Planting Video" for an interesting reason...
Anyways, Mark Driscoll argues that a church-planter should strive to get the young men in their twenties. They are the innovators, the entrepreneurs, the leaders and the heads of young families. "Get the men and you win the war", says Driscoll. He is very convincing.

However, as I was doing my route in Recquignies, I was hit with the reality of my present situation. It seems that most people in the village are little old ladies, where am I supposed to find the men?
As I was talking to God about this, it hit me that Driscoll might have it all wrong. It isn't the men we need, for example, look at George Verwer's testimony. As he always tells us, some little old
lady put him on "her Holy-Ghost hit-list" (aka Prayer) and he gave his life at a evangelistic meeting.
So I felt that God might be saying to me, "get the old ladies and you
win the war..."

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Tribute to a Great Little Woman

With tears and much joyful sadness, I write a tribute to Sophie Kapitaniuk, my 75 year-old grandmother.

After years of battling illness, her heart stopped last night (Friday 7th November) and the doctors were unable to do anything. She has gone to be with Jesus and I know her to be most happy now. 'Mamy', as her grandchildren called her, was a pillar and model to me. Her influence upon my life is incalculable as she was a woman of prayer with strong faith.
75 years-old, she still laughed like a child to express her joy. God and the Bible were her greatest sources of happiness. She was perhaps the most excited of all my family when I dedicated my life to missions as she had been praying that at least one of her eight sons would become a missionary. In my grandparent's view, missions and the pastoral ministry were the two highest callings and Papy and Mamy wished to see the world engulfed in the worship of Jesus.
The Bible was a daily source of comfort and strength. Because her sight was so diminished, she had to be read to. She savoured and meditated upon God's word each day. I often wonder why God would take away the sight of a woman who so loved the Bible, when most of us see and do not treasure His word as we ought.

Her grandchildren were another source of great joy. She always has loved children. Mother of eight, grandmother of 25 (this number is always on the rise), she loved having children around. Her grandchildren sensed this and reciprocated her love. Offerings of drawings, paintings and countless 'bouquets' of flowers adorned her house. Her smile will be a wonderful memory to cherish until I see her again.
By her death, Mamy leaves a void in my life. She was a friend, a prayer-partner, a counsellor and my grandmother. Though short in stature, she is high in my esteem. Her treasure was Jesus, and therefore, in heaven was her heart. She lived out Psalm 71:

"Even when I am old and grey, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come." Psalm 71:18
Though she experienced suffering that would have made most modern men doubt or renounce their faith, she clung to Jesus knowing that He held her tight. Her heart was for the lost and Bill and Sophie were always on the lookout for an opportunity to tell people about the forgiveness found in Jesus. How often I heard Mamy say, "Bill, give them a new testament!" or "Bill, here is a tract to give to that person!" She also told people about what she had experienced with Jesus, but Mamy was the praying strength in the 50 years of my grandfather's ministry of evangelism.
Though dead, her life will continue to speak. Death was gain to her, so her life was well-lived. If there is one thing she would want for each of us, is that we not waste our momentary earthly lives. 'The best is to come,' she told me recently and now that time has come for her.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Book Review: Out of the Black Shadows by Stephen Lungu

As is my habit whenever I read a captivating story, I must finish it in one reading. I have never learned anything about delayed gratification. It is no wonder then that I struggle so to fight sin with the future joy of heaven. However, with books I find it no fault, it only means that I sleep little and must fight sloth the next days.

This book is an account of the life of Stephen Lungu who grew up in what is present-day Zimbabwe. Abandoned by his father as a toddler, his mother also abandons him by the age of eight. Stephen is the eldest of three and must provide for them. Early on, he escapes his aunts who resentfully have been putting up with the three children. Stephen grows up on the streets, forming a gang in his early teens and eventually getting involved with the revolutionary party who is attempting to destabilize the government all forms of unrest, riots, petrol bombs, attacks etc...
On way to bomb a Christian gathering, God reveals himself to young Stephen, who repents and gives his life to God. From that day onward, Stephen Lungu is a different person and goes on to become an evangelist with a great heart of compassion for the lost people around him, as he himself was saved from a life of misery.

That is a very short summary of the book. There are good twists and some profound insights into God. While I would have liked to know more about his reading of the Bible, I appreciated the description of the men that shaped Stephen Lungu's life, especially Patrick Johnstone, the author of Operation World. I also benefitted from Lungu's humble account of the events in his life. I've never met him, but I'm led to believe that it isn't false modesty. Because of his childhood, Stephen was brought up to believe that he had no worth and that it was his fault that his parents abandoned the family. Only God's miraculous hand is able to heal his view of himself.

I recommend the book to everyone that enjoys a well written and exciting biography.

Friday, November 7, 2008

There is much meaning in the death of young people

My life as I now know is it is only because God has seized me. I've been allowed to know the greatness of Jesus' love on the cross. He died for my sins the death I ought to have died so that I can now live for God.
But God has also used the death of someone else to lead me on the path of life. Through the death a 17 year old I realized that my life was worthless unless lived for God. The first funeral of my life was for a young woman who'd just celebrated her 17th birthday. I was her age and it left me profoundly changed.

Where would I be today if it weren't for the speeding, drunk driver who killed Mikaela on a warm July evening? I'm thankful for the experience of her death, because I shudder to think how I might have wasted my life elsewhere. That I today serve God is by God's grace, that I was able to spend three years on the Doulos is by God's grace that summer evening.

These memories came back to me today because of a conversation I had with Y*, a girl in my class. I was reading a book and she asked if it was the Bible. It wasn't, it's the Confessions of Augustine I replied. This was the start of a conversation that allowed me to discover the hopelessness of my classmate's life. Her mother is a practicing Catholic and she also used to be, she explained. But when she was 17, her best friend was killed in an accident. They were
driving a scooter together and a driver clipped their bike. With a struggle, her friend managed to regain balance, but then hit a post on the side of the road and died on the spot. Y* survived the accident but attempted suicide which caused her to fall into a coma for three weeks. Since then, she knows she'll die when her time has come but doesn't see the need to believe in a God. They were both 17 years old as I was, but our reactions were very different. Y* was turned away from God and I was thrown into his arms.

There is much purpose in the death of our young people. I pray that Y* would see Jesus and choose joy rather than meaningless misery. I don't know who said this, but it is not a tragedy to die. The tragedy is to die and not be ready.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I'm a beggar

February 16, 1546
Martin Luther scribbled his last words on a piece of paper before dying. Reading these words tonight put joy again in my heart. Frankly I am tired. I've been undisciplined (again) and am in serious need of sleep. In this condition I distrust my negative feelings, sometimes even depressive, I ignore them and choose to remind myself of the joy I've known.
"We are beggars! This is true."
Last words of Martin Luther
These words stirred joy in my heart, for I read great truth here. Again and again I am reminded that I don't draw my strength and joy from the right source. I'm a rebellious sinner who has been shown everlasting grace by a great, glorious and holy God. I come without conditions as a beggar to receive grace, grace and ever-abundant grace. To remember from what God saved me and to what I have been saved is enough to eternally fill me with joy, if only I let Him do so.