Saturday, December 29, 2012

"The Power of One"

While I am home on my furlough, I have the special privilege of speaking at a few area churches, sharing about what God is doing on the islands in Uganda.

My first speaking opportunity of this trip was on Dec. 16 on The Bridge Church in Longview. The Bridge posts its sermons online, so I thought in case anyone was interested in hearing a bit about what I have been up to, you can visit The Bridge's web page.

Just click here, click "Launch Media Player" and then select "Mission to Uganda" for my presentation entitled "The Power of One."


Monday, December 17, 2012

"Then Pealed the Bells More Loud and Deep..."

One of my favorite Christmas carols is "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" because I love the story that is told in the lyrics. It was written by the famous poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1863 - in the midst of the American Civil War - a dark and tumultous time for our country.

Here is a bit of the history behind the song, from Wikipedia:

"During the American Civil War, Longfellow's oldest son, Charles Appleton Longfellow, joined the Union cause as a soldier, without his father's blessing.  Longfellow was informed by a letter dated March 14, 1863, after Charles had left. 'I have tried hard to resist the temptation of going without your leave, but I cannot any long,' Charles wrote. 'I feel it to be my first duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down my life for it, if it would be of any good.' Charles soon got an appointment as a lieutenant, but in November, he was severely wounded in the Battle of New Hope Church in Virginia during the Mine Run Campaign. Coupled with the recent loss of his wife Frances, who died as a result of an accidental fire, Longfellow was inspired to write 'Christmas Bells'...on Christmas Day 1863."

The poem was first published in a juvenile magazine in February 1865 and later set to music in 1872.

In light of last week's tragic events, the truth of this song rings in my ears. It seems our world, and especially our country has slipped into a very dark time, especially spiritually, and we may feel tempted to ask ourselves, "God, are you still in control?"  We need only to turn to His Word and reflect on our own history, to know that yes, He is still in control.

"I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how the as the day had come
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
'There is no peace on earth,' I said,
'For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.'

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep,
'God is not dead, not doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.'

Till ringing, singing, on its way
The world revolved from night to day.
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Small Players in a Big Story

 Moving kings. Moving stars. Moving history.

Opening the curtain of time for the entrance of His long-awaited, long-predicted Son.

Imagine being on the stage of history two thousand-plus years ago, in the opening scene of the arrival of the God-man Jesus Christ.

Would you have been a humble shepherd? A distraught innkeeper? A searching magi? And if you had been there, do you think you would have fully realized the enormity of the production you were a small player in?  Probably not.

I imagine at one time or another, we have all wished we had been there - somewhere - to have witnessed firsthand the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus into our world.

Though none of us will ever have that wish fulfilled, we have the benefit of reading several Biblical accounts and seeing more of the story than many of the firsthand players did. Oftentimes you get to see more of the big picture when you observe it from afar, than when you are up close to the scene. And then sometimes we need to move and examine the story from a new angle to gain a fresh perspective.

I am enjoying seeing the "big picture"again this Christmas season. My family has never really participated in Advent, but this year I downloaded a copy of John Piper's Advent devotional, "Good News of Great Joy" (available free to download here.)

A couple of days ago, Pr. Piper talked about how God caused Roman emperor Caesar Augustus to call for a worldwide census, just so "two little people," Joseph and Mary, who were living in Nazareth, would go up to Bethlehem to fulfill ancient prophecy. Caesar may have thought he was a "Big Cheese" and had a really grand idea, but he was just a pawn to make way for a much greater Ruler and King.

"...It is implicit in Scripture that all the mammoth political forces and all the giant industrial complexes, without their even knowing it, are being guided by God, not for their own sake but for the sake of God's little people - the little Mary and the little Joseph who have to be got from Nazareth to Bethlehem. God wields an empire to bless His children."

"He is a big God for little people, and we have great cause to rejoice that, unbeknownst to them, all the kings and presidents and premiers and chancellors of the world follow the sovereign decrees of our Father in heaven, that we, the children, might be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ."

Wow. We serve a Big God who loves and looks out for "little" people, like you and me.

 A few days later, I was captured by the story of the "star" the one that guided the royal magi right to the humble birthplace of Jesus.

"...What is plain concerning this matter of the star is that it is doing something that it cannot do on its own: it is guiding magi to the Son of God to worship Him....God is guiding foreigners to Christ to worship Him. And He is doing it be exerting global - probably even universal - influence and power to get it done."

An emperor. A star. An innkeeper. Three magi. A band of shepherds. A chorus of angels. A young virgin. A first-time father. All small players, but all important in the unfolding of the greatest story on earth and for all eternity.

In comparison to the "Star" of the show - Jesus - the rest of the "actors" fade from the limelight.  But, small does not mean insignificant.

Yes, we are "small" compared to the greatness and majesty and glory of Jesus Christ, but we are not insignificant. Not when we consider that He is the Hero who came to save us, the lost, the wounded, the sin-ridden enemies of God. 

It's pretty amazing that God used "small" players in a "big" story to welcome a "Big" King to save "small" people.

You may think you are a "small" player and that God is paying no attention to you. But He sent His Only Son to earth to die and then resurrect for you. You must be somebody pretty important to Him.

And, if you are so important, where do you fit into His story today? Are you playing your part?

Graphics credit:

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Precious People

Thanksgiving with my dear sister Leah - the first Thanksgiving we have spent together since 2003.
 I have been in the states almost two weeks and back in Oregon for about five days.  My heart has been aching lately...aching with joy!

When you see, talk to and embrace people you have not seen for well over a year,  or you meet new ones you have only ever heard about, your heart tends to expand - filling with joy.

Me, far right, with my good friend and fellow missionary Karina, whom I have not seen since June in Uganda, and my beautiful Marmee (Mom).
I am loving, loving being home!  But it's not just the consistently hot showers or the fact that I get to wear my winter duds, or have access to any one of my favorite foods, but what has really thrilled my heart lately has been to be with precious, precious people.

Oftentimes you don't truly treasure something or someone until you have to be apart from it for an extended time or over a long distance.

Though I am happy Christmas and its related activities are just around the corner, I am even more excited to connect and reunite with others in the coming days and weeks!

With dear, dear friends
I am going to make this a short post, but I just want to urge all of you to enjoy, treasure, invest in and value each and every person you get to be with today. Don't take them for granted. These times and seasons are fleeting and today will soon become a memory. 

Make it a treasured memory.