The other day, I went to the optometrist to get my eyes checked.
After my appointment, I strolled into the eye glasses shop to get my glasses adjusted.
The optician was a kind lady and I could tell at once she REALLY loved her job. She was so excited to adjust my bent glasses. She knew I wasn’t going to buy anything, she didn’t care about that.
After introducing myself, I remarked, “You must really love your work.” Her eyes began to shine and twinkle.
She responded, “I love my job because I get to help people see.” She continued, “Your eye doctor is the best and he wants the best for his patients. When they come to me, I give them the best glasses. So, I get to help people see!”
Wow! What a lovely and contagious attitude.
As Christ-followers, we get to help people see too. We help people see Jesus. Whether we’re meeting a need, preaching, praying for someone or answering tough questions; we are clearing a sight-line to Jesus. He is the good doctor who is responsible for opening their eyes to the truth. But in God’s providence, we get to be a part of his work by sharing the gospel. That is staggering. What a privilege.
What if my attitude was more like that lady in the eye-glass store?
What a winsome way to open up a spiritual conversation with someone; “I love my work because I get to help people see!”
We don’t have to optician to help people see our Savior. We’ve got everything we need in Him. The question is, “Who am I helping to see Jesus right now?”
May this encourage you to ‘see’ your ministry from a different angle today.
The following was adapted from a talk delivered on January 20, 2019 at Christ Chapel Bible Church in Ft. Worth, TX. Sanctity of Human Life Sunday
Imagine a baby in the womb – warm and safe. It’s a little boy. He’s not aware of the outside world. He just knows he’s safe.
Meanwhile, his parent’s marriage is falling apart as brokenness and selfishness drive a wedge between his mother and father. The fighting intensifies into a crisis.
With the little boy in her womb, the mother goes to her doctor filled with hurt and fear. She asks physician to get rid of the little boy she is carrying. The doctor replies, “I will not do that.” He sends her away. The little boy doesn’t know how close he came to death that day.
As the fearful young mother leaves the doctor’s office alone, Something inside her changes…
She chooses to keep the child regardless of what happens with her marriage. She whispers to herself, “He is mine! He is my little boy. Come what may.”
And so the little boy is born into chaos and brokenness. His parents divorce but the fighting and turmoil will continue for years to come.
A few years pass by and the little boy begins first grade. The first weeks are a struggle because he gets out of school hours before his mother gets off work. She juggles work and picking him up from school. It’s not working out.
One day when the mom picks up the little boy at the church where the school bus drops off the children, she sees a little lady looking after the children on the playground. She is older, kindly and not quite 5 feet tall. The mother introduces herself and points out her little boy on the playground with the other children. She says to the little lady, “Do you see that little boy playing over there? He is mine.” The mother tells the little lady of her struggles picking up her little boy after school.
The mother asks, “Would you be willing to look after my little boy until I get off work?”
“Of course, I will look after him.” responds the little lady with a warm smile.
And God quietly sends a missionary into the lives of the little boy and his mother.
The little lady cares for him, prays for him and loves him. She shares Jesus with the little boy. In the midst of the chaos and struggles going on around him, the little boy has an anchor.
Years pass and the little lady encourages the little boy to make a decision about Christ and be baptized. He does and there is great joy – at least for a little while…
The little boy gets a little older leaves home for boarding school far away. The little lady continues to pray and intercede for him. She sends him letters encouraging him and reminding him he is loved by God. He visits when he’s home sometimes.
However, time and distance grow between the boy and the little lady. She is growing old but she never ceases praying for him day and night.
The boy begins to wonder into the shadows and valleys becoming enchanted with darkness. He is at college far from home. He becomes entangled in snares and brambles of sin. The boy meets a girl on his dark path. They have a relationship and she becomes pregnant with their own child.
BUT, THE BOY HAS CHANGED He has grown selfish and filled with fear, shame and anger. He persuades the girl to kill the child in her womb. With the death of his child at his own hand – something inside of the boy dies too.
The little lady senses trouble. She launches salvos of prayer into the very halls of heaven. But, no answers are coming into the life of the boy.
Time passes as the void left in the boy’s life is flooded with more darkness, shame and destruction. The boy attempts to remain afloat pursuing worldly pleasures to sedate the pain, as he tumbles into the abyss.
And one day, the little lady who had prayed and prayed for the boy dies and goes to the Father in Heaven. Still, no answers in the boy’s life… Did the sustaining prayers die with the little lady?
Many years later, the boy has fallen into a deep pit in the valley of shadows – exhausted, ashamed and lost. He believes the only way out is to die by his own hand. After all, it is what he deserves.
THEN, SOMETHING CHANGES In the boy’s darkest moment, mighty God shuts the mouth of the roaring lion. He stays the hand of the enemy and declares, “This one is mine!”
Into this dark valley of shadows, the good shepherd seeks and searches for the one that wondered off. Over the mountains and through the valleys and brambles he finds the one he is searching for. He stoops down and lifts up the lost sheep. And he returns it to the fold with the others.
Do you see that sheep laying torn, bloodied and exhausted so very close to the shepherd’s feet? Do you see him resting there?
The good shepherd with wounded hands binds the wounds of this sheep. The shepherd looks into the tired and tearing eyes of the trembling sheep and whispers, “I have a plan and purpose for you. From the time you were in your mother’s womb, I watched over you and protected you. I love you more than you will ever know.”
A light dawns on the horizon of the boy’s life. And so the boy stumbles down a path toward God.
Now imagine a magnificent morning in heaven. Absolutely glorious. The little lady goes up to worship and praise the Father with the multitudes. The halls of heaven fill with God’s glory. An angel steps forward to announce that the little lady’s prayer for the little boy has come up for memorial before the Father – a prayer from decades ago – that God would bless, protect and use the little boy.
And so the Father in Heaven listens and sends forth a gentle rain of answered prayer into the life of the boy.
I am that boy.
I STAND before you today under that gentle rain of answered prayer – to bear witness to what God has done and proclaim the Gospel to the nations.
“The biggest thing in my life, ladies and gentlemen, is that God loves me. And God has done something through Christ on the cross that brings forgiveness and peace with God. It gives me a certainty and meaning for the future.”
Oxford Professor Mathematics Emeritus and Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College, Oxford
The this is a continuation of a previous story, you can read the first part here ….
It’s the end of August and I am sitting cross-legged on a rug in a refugee camp in Northern Iraq (Kurdistan). A girl politely places a glass in front of me containing very strong piping hot tea loaded with too much sugar. I can’t understand the quiet conversations going on around me as our team and our hosts settle into their spots on the rug along the dark walls of the tent. The inside of the tent is a cool oasis from the scorching 109F heat of the day. As if on cue, everyone begins stirring their tiny teas with tiny spoons. Everyone smiles at one another as a strange symphony of chiming metal against delicate glass fills the space. I don’t know our hosts except from reading about them but I feel quite welcome.
I am seated across the tent from a group of shy but seemingly contented Yazidi women and girls recently rescued from the Islamic State terror group (ISIS). ISIS terrorists are masters of human trafficking among other evils. Women and girls are stolen from their homes and sold as sex slaves. The boys are turned into child soldiers, suicide bombers or simply discarded. A few months ago, these women and girls were experiencing horrors beyond the bounds of human comprehension. Just thinking about what they’ve undergone is more than enough to break your heart and mind. But, they are survivors and resilient.
The epicenter of something massive on a global scale
Its difficult to fathom exactly how I got here. Yes, I flew from Dallas-Fort Worth to Frankfurt, Germany to Erbil, Iraq then drove north for a few hours. But, thousands of tiny threads converged to arrive at this moment. This is the epicenter of something massive on a global scale.
Two years prior, on a chilly morning I was invited to a meeting with the Fort Worth Police Department to address the sex-trafficking epidemic in Fort Worth. This small group of loosely affiliated agencies and non-profits were trying to get their heads around the problem. We were pressented with cases where little girls were being bought and sold for sex in my city, I was in a state of shock. The police department was overwhelmed. Local government was in disbelief and I’m considering vigilante justice.
Fast-forward a year. I’m now deeply involved in a taskforce combatting human trafficking in North Texas. The tiny group has grown to over 50 agencies, non-profits and departments. Over previous 12 months, I’ve made connections across the country with leaders and agencies dealing with the issues of human trafficking.
One Thursday evening, I’m preparing to leave my office when I get a call from a woman in our church who is in a US city that will remain unnamed. She’s a part of our anti-trafficking community, she’s a friend and she’s attempting to rescue a girl and her infant baby from her trafficker.
I hear fear in her voice. She’s at an airport with the victim, the victim’s baby and another woman assisting the rescue. The trafficker is part of an organized gang, very dangerous and issues an ultimatum to the victim; “Be at my house by 11pm or I’ll kill you.”
I’m sitting in my office in Fort Worth 8 hours away staring at a clock on my laptop screen edging closer to 6pm. The victim can’t board a plane because her trafficker has confiscated her ID. The women can’t leave the airport because he may have people looking for her. Local law enforcement cannot be trusted and hospitals are not geared up for this type of situation – they will just call the police. She can’t go to her parents because one of them sexually abused her for years. The three women and baby are stuck. They begin to panic.
I begin thinking and praying through the situation. The safest place at this point is the airport. But, they can’t stay there all night without raising suspicion of airport security.
From my office, we make a plan to get them to the airport hotel and into adjoining rooms. One room is for guests with physical disabilities. That way, they would be near an elevator and they could activate emergency devices in the room to call for help. They could flee to the adjoining room if necessary. Our plan was a tiny bandaid on a massive problem. They didn’t know if they were followed. The victim will be going through withdrawals from Oxycotin soon (her trafficker keeps her doped up in order to control her). She will need medical attention and aftercare to stabilize her from years of trauma. The baby will need formula and fresh diapers.
I’m thinking, “What the heck are we going to do? I have a friend in a potentially deadly situation and I have no way to help.” It’s now approaching 9pm. I’ve called everyone I know with access to aircraft. I considered renting them a car but then they would be driving for several hours without protection. I’m out of ideas. My assistant and I are staring at Google maps and the clock. We were both praying. This situation is far beyond our abilities or experience. We’re in way over our heads.
Then it hit me, “Wait a second! I know someone who knows a guy who deals with this type of situation!” I made a phone call and we prayed. “Lord, help them, help them …” That is about all we could pray at this point. We sit and stare at the clock. Nothing is happening. Minutes are rolling by. Still nothing.
Finally, I get the call I’ve been waiting for. First thing in the morning, a private plane will be dispatched to a small municipal airport outside the city. In the meantime, a retired US Special Forces guy will be parked at the hotel to keep watch over the sleeping girls. Like clockwork, the next morning (Friday) a plane arrives and the security team bring the victim, her baby, my friend and another young woman back to Fort Worth safely.
On Sunday, the victim (now trafficking survivor) is receiving care in a local facility and her infant girl is at our church for Sunday Services (in the caring arms of a young woman who agreed to babysit while her mom received treatment). When I got word the baby was on campus I knew I was walking under the gentle rain of answered prayer. Incredible!
There are people in our world willing to risk their lives to rescue forgotten women and children from evil and walk with them toward restoration. I had to learn more and God opened the door for me to do just that… I will take you on that journey.
“Christ” (Christos) in Greek means “the anointed one” or “chosen one.” In Hebrew it is translated “Messiah” (Mashiach). In addition, “Christ” is not a name, but a title. “Jesus Christ” renders Jesus the chosen one/anointed one.
1 Peter 3:15 is not typically considered a Christmas verse per se. We find it in the context of suffering for Christ and leading up to Peter’s apologetic (apologia) for our faith in Jesus Christ. However, I think we can view this short passage through the lens of preparation for the incarnation of our Savior-King and Lord.
A few nights ago my daughter (6 years old) was frightened and could not fall asleep. She was scared and I know what that feels like. So, I joined her in her fear to validate her feelings and try to help her find a way out. I started talking about Jesus and His protection in times when I’ve been scared.
The conversation went something like this:
Me: Did you know that the Bible calls Jesus “the Lion of Judah”?
Me: He is. Jesus is like a mighty lion. Nobody messes with a lion, right?
Me: We are His children and He protects us like a lion. Did you know that Jesus has other nicknames?
Lilly: Yes, mommy plays a song called “The Lion And The Lamb.” What are His other nicknames?
Me: Yes, Jesus is also the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!”
Suddenly, fear left the room, the tears subsided and she began to relax and even smile a little.
We began to softly sing together the “King of kings, Lord of lords” portion of the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah.” It wasn’t pretty. However, I think I could hear the faint toe tap from the throne room of heaven. Lilly peacefully wandered off to sleep under the blanket of God’s protection with a mighty chorus echoing in her heart. My heart was full. We had set apart Christ as Lord in our hearts and fear fled the invading forces of peace.
The ancient prophet Isaiah said “A light has dawned…” (Isa. 9:2), I’m convinced he was seeing the incarnation, the coming Lord. “A child is born… a son is given”. Above all, we needed more than a child, we needed the Son. Only one son would do — a Savior. The Christ! From the annals of time, we hear the chorus, “King of kings, Lord of lords” like peals of thunder rolling through history.
In all matters of life, we should set apart Jesus Christ as Lord.
Our heart is our essence as moral creatures, as image-bearers and the seat of our will. It begins in our hearts. But, what does that look like at Christmastime?
When we set apart Christ in our hearts as Lord we are acknowledging His majesty and holiness. We are bending our knee and heart toward Him as a flower bends toward the sun. We are yielded to His lordship, His splendor and captivated by His power, beauty and love.
Christmas celebrated rightly with Christ set apart as Lord in our hearts should be a mighty procession that occurs every year. We wait and watch for its arrival. When Christmas arrives, we celebrate like no one else on earth. The rest of the world is in darkness, yet the light has in fact dawned. It is the perfect time to share the gospel of peace and invite others to come out of the darkness and join in the chorus acknowledging “Christ is the King of kings, Lord of lords!”
“Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere …”
2 Cor. 2:14
The procession has arrived. Have you set apart Christ as Lord in your heart? Have you made room for the Christ?
Finally, in Revelation 22, Jesus Christ says repeatedly, “I am coming soon.” He says, “Surely, I am coming soon” (Rev. 22:20). He did come, He is here and He will come again! Christmas is a time to reflect, a time to wonder and celebrate the magnificent Savior.
Surfing the newsfeed experiencing a new emotion with every little swipe of my thumb, I’d get a little hit of dopamine. It felt great in the moment.
Over time I recognized that I had a problem. So, when I went overseas in August I deactivated my Facebook account and did not re-activate until nearly two months later. At present, I rarely check the platform. Yesterday, I logged in for the first time in a week to check messages and I decided to scroll the timeline. Not much has changed. I got bored after about 5 minutes and went on about my afternoon. Addiction defeated, problem solved right?
Last night I was alone at the ranch while Kat and the kids were at her folk’s house. Usually, I’d be outside doing something but the weather was nasty. So, I was stuck inside the house. I had some choices to make. I could watch a movie, I could catch up on news on my iPhone or I could sit down and try to finish a book called “Hearing the Spirit” by Christopher Ash. All decent options.
I rarely watch TV, so I crossed watching a movie off my list easily, no problem. I scrolled the news and read the paper earlier in the day. No need to do that. Reading a book was the most profitable activity I could do as the day drew to an end. Simple enough. Let’s read! I prepared to sit and read for an hour before going to bed.
At some point between making a hot cup of Rooibos tea, sitting in my easy chair and opening my book, I picked up my iPhone to check on the weather. Then, I began reading the news.
The battle was on!
I realized that the instant gratification and the dopamine release of scanning news on my smartphone had won over the delayed gratification and long-term benefit of reading a book. Like a naughty child, I took the culprit (my iPhone) to the other room and put it down. Problem solved!
I went back to my comfy chair and picked up my book. Then, I thought, “What if Kat calls with an emergency?” My phone is in the other room, I’d miss the call. I’d better keep it with me while I read. I got up and retrieved my iPhone from timeout. In the short walk from the other room where the phone had been to my chair, I decided to check the weather again. After all the wind was howling and it may freeze tonight. A few moments later, I was watching a news video on some media channel. I had been ambushed! It was an inside job!
It’s always an inside job!
My problem isn’t my iPhone or Facebook or Apple News. My problem is my heart. If I am honest, the dominant characteristics of my desires are worldly. Yes, I have a few Godly desires. But the shimmering allure and distractions of the world draw me away from God. There is nothing wrong with smartphones, social media or reading the news. However, when self-centered passions, instant gratification and ruling desires overshadow my desire to know God, my life becomes disordered and worldly in nature.
Worldliness is being devoted to affairs, activities and concerns of temporal existence over our spiritual lives. A life rooted in worldliness leads to emptiness, frustration and sadness.
As I prepared to pray this morning, I was lead to James 4 (Warning Against Worldliness). I read the passage and something changed. A light clicked on in an old forgotten room of my heart.
Worldliness and disorder ooze their way into our prayer life like an infection. We know the passage; “You have not because you ask not…” I hear many Christians (myself included) throw it in conversation or prayer when a need arises. In response, we say, “Amen and Amen!”
Is that what James 4 is about? We don’t have because we don’t ask?
You ask and do not receive, because you ask WRONGLY, to spend it on your passions.”
James 4:2b-3 ESV
We ask wrongly for the wrong things because we have yielded our hears to worldly passions. Therefore, our disordered prayers are rooted in worldly desires deep in our hearts dressed up in a veneer of “Christian lingo” and out of context Bible passages. God does not answer prayers that run counter to His nature and His revealed will in scripture.
Why do I pray for more stuff in my life to distract me from God? Because I’ve allowed worldly desires to ambush my pursuit of God.
November 11th was National Orphan Sunday. Frankly, every Sunday should be Orphan Sunday.
Our church is advocating for John and other children in foster care. You can help John and other children find a forever family!
“John is a sweet 10 year old boy! He said, “I really, really want to be adopted!” He is described as being all boy. John loves playing outside and catching bugs. He is very sweet and fun to be around. John likes to make jokes, and his infectious laugh will spread to anyone around him! He is competitive, athletic and ambidextrous. John is artistic and loves to draw- especially Minions and Pikachu from Pokémon. He desires a family that will love him unconditionally and be patient as he works through his trauma.”
Nearly 7% of all orphans in the USA are in Texas
17,000 children in Foster Care in Texas
340 kids are currently in Tarrant County foster care waiting to be adopted
20% of the children who were in foster care will become instantly homeless when they reach 21.
7 out of 10 girls who age out of the foster care system will become pregnant before the age of 21.
25% of children who age out of the foster care system still suffer from PTSD
Not everyone is called to adopt or become a foster parent. However, everyone can advocate for children in the foster care system.
Creative ways to help:
Pray for children in the foster care system and families who choose to step in.
“There are almost 17,000 kids in foster care in Texas. That seems like a crazy number until you hear there are almost 30,000 churches in Texas! There is more to Orphan Care than just fostering or adopting. If one Christian family from every church adopted and that church agreed to support and wrap around that family there would no no more orphans in Texas.“
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.