by Josh McClure, Guest Writer
I was blessed several years ago to attend a conference where Andy Merritt was the keynote speaker. Andy is a preacher at Edgewood Baptist Church in Columbus, Georgia, and is one of the pioneers of the pregnancy help movement.
Andy shared how his church started a center in their building, and watched as it transformed the lives of men and women. I was moved by a lesson he learned along the way, which you can listen to here.
Here is what I learned:
God is merciful and patient. He remained committed to Israel even when they were unfaithful for many years. Yet Israel’s Idolatry led to immorality and the crossing of a line that brought judgement upon, and a long exile for Judah. The first two chapters of Amos show that God judges nations and where He draws a line at the shedding of innocent blood. Amos explains that because of the sins of Manasseh, God would not pardon their sin.
In 2 Kings 21, we see that Manasseh stands apart from all the prior kings because he instituted child sacrifice to a false god named Moloch. This child sacrifice idolatry was to provide prosperity and protection for the Judah.
Manasseh, when facing challenging neighboring nations did not turn to God, he chose to sacrifice children on an idol to secure prosperity. God can forgive any sin, so long as the heart of man is repentant. There is no greater example of this than King Manasseh himself repents in 2 Ch 33:21-25. Yes, we will see the formerly wicked King Manasseh when we enter the Kingdom of God.
And yet, God does not hold back his judgement even when Manasseh repented, because the people did not repent with him. Two generations later, Manasseh’s grandson, Josiah, became king and tore down the idols of Moloch, and he undertook the greatest national reformation we have ever seen in scripture. Peace was in Judah during his reign. But as soon as Josiah dies, his son reinstitutes Moloch worship, and the people join in.
Jeremiah 3:10 describes the nation’s repentance under Judah as a fraud, and Ezekiel 9 is dedicated to the judgment that had finally come upon Judah. Notice, God spares those who groan and lament the state of the Judah, and He focuses the beginning of judgment on the spiritual leaders.
This country is a long way down the road toward judgment. While Manasseh sinned greatly for 55 years and filled Jerusalem with blood, the United States has overshadowed Judah’s shedding of innocent blood by an exponential magnitude.
The people of Judea worshipped Moloch for the same reasons people choose abortion today. We have only become more efficient at it. In one year, more innocent lives are taken in this country than could have possibly occurred in Judah.
Yet there is hope for averting God’s judgment because the people are not uniform in the acceptance of abortion. Regular polls done in this country indicate the majority opinion is that abortion is wrong. Millennials are described as the most pro-life generation in decades. Abortion, along with many other destructive sins, is legal in this country, and there are agents pushing for greater acceptance of immoralities such as these.
In 2015, the State of California passed a law that would require pro-life pregnancy centers to use their walls as billboards to advertise taxpayer-funded abortions. The law also makes it impossible for non-medical pregnancy centers to advertise by imposing burdensome disclaimers to crowd out the pro-life message in as many as 13 languages.
This law was crafted by the pro-abortion lobby and hatched in the California Legislature. Its purpose; to silence those who would lovingly offer an alternative to men and women facing a difficult choice in an unexpected pregnancy.
On the eve of boarding a plane to go to Washington, D.C. to bring our case to the Supreme Court, I was given a picture painted by Sharon Mayfield—a supporter of Pregnancy Care Clinic in San Diego. I had asked her to consider painting it a year earlier, and it came at such an important time. The picture is of King Josiah breaking down the altar or Moloch.
Notice the two emotional responses at seeing this picture. First, there is a feeling of victory, strength, and courage as an injustice is being removed from practice. We draw hope that the idolatry of abortion can be stopped in this country. But let us remember also the failure of Josiah. While he radically altered his trajectory with God averting judgment against the country, the people’s hearts were not changed.
We must recognize that abortion cannot be stopped by mere laws of men, but by changing the heart of the people. This is a one person at a time campaign, and it takes commitment to see it through.
Our country was founded on the idea that our rights including the First Amendment are endowed to us by our Creator, and the Constitution is set in place to protect those rights. It is a gift given by God that we can believe freely in Him, and to act or speak according to our convictions without fear of persecution from man. Infringing these rights is nothing short of tyranny.
California sought to force pro-life clinics and the people who work there to violate their convictions and purpose. No one should be forced under threat to speak a message contrary to what they believe. I believe we will see justice prevail, and California’s AB775 overturned.
The second emotion when viewing this painting is horror and dread at the thought of all the years, and all the innocent lives destroyed on that altar. We are also reminded of the terrible judgment from God that befell Judah, and that same judgment is looming for this country.
The heart shudders at the very image of that idol even as it is being torn down. I have to give a shout-out and recognize the heart of Sharon who took on this project. In some ways, I am sorry I asked her to paint it. I don’t think I knew what I was asking of her. In beholding the tragedy of this picture, I know her heart was burdened by painting it. She shared with me, there were times she had to put it away and not look at it and do other life breathing projects. I saw her breathe a sigh of relief when she handed it to me.
I will never forget Sharon’s sacrifice to paint this prophetic piece. You see, there are very few pictures of the idolatry of Moloch. We have an aversion toward the suffering of the innocent. I cannot bear the image of a child being placed on that idol, just as I cannot bear the image of an aborted baby. This painting is but a shadow of the Idolatry of Moloch. It is victorious and yet still I shudder. Abortion is performed behind the veil of the womb, our society is blind to it! An innocent life is taken for the benefit of perceived prosperity or peace. Sharon’s painting has pulled back the veil, and given us new context. She has encouraged us that we can make a difference. We can see abortion ended, we can see a culture of life restored. I pray God’s blessing on Sharon, and I pray God would use this picture for His glory, to change hearts (especially of our leaders) and embolden his faithful workers.
“By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.” Hebrews 11:31
We all probably know the story of Rahab the harlot. As a quick refresher, Joshua sent spies into the city of Jericho to check out the city Israel was to conquer. Rahab, a woman of ill repute, took in the spies and when the King’s men asked her to turn them over, she hid Joshua’s men in her attic. Then, she lied to the king’s men, telling them the spies “went thataway!” Off the king’s men went, never finding the spies.
A short time later, the army of Israel marched around Jericho for six days. On the seventh, they blew the trumpets and the walls fell.
Rahab’s faith—a belief that the spies were men of God—saved her and her family. This led to a series of amazing events.
Here’s a question: “What would have happened if Rahab obeyed her king instead of taking her step of faith?”
The quick answer is, “Well, God would have worked it out another way.” Maybe this is correct. But we don’t know this.
What we do know is; a woman who was likely at the absolute bottom of the social ladder, who was likely mocked by the very men who accessed her services, who was labeled in the most hurtful way . . . suddenly faced a choice and an opportunity.
She could choose to obey the authority she knew (her king), or she could choose the God she did not know. She decided on a leap of faith.
Hundreds of years later, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews still called her “Rahab the harlot.” So no, she didn’t lose her label. But she did gain entrance into what we now call, “The Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11.
Rahab’s choice led to the conquering of Jericho. Which led to Israel’s rise as a nation. Rahab’s choice also led her to marry Salmon, which led to the birth of Boaz. Boaz married Ruth, one of only two women to have books of the Bible named after them. Rahab, Ruth and others created the generational line leading to the mighty King David. And King David led to . . . Jesus.
One choice. Just one. By a woman with everything stacked against her.
Two thoughts to keep in mind.
One, the clients and patients who come in our door may have everything stacked against them. But one choice—just one—can change everything. Let’s always remember this.
Two, what about us? We all wonder at times, “Can God work through me?” I don’t write the following to diminish Rahab, but her being labeled a harlot is a lesson that God uses the unlikely. Regardless of our pasts--whether better or worse than Rahab’s--God seeks those who will seize the opportunities He gives.
Rahab seized her opportunity and her moment of faith changed the scope of human history. Why can’t this happen when the unlikely person walks in our door? And why can’t this happen with us, his unlikely servants?
by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
Dear Friends in Christ and Fellow Laborers in the Service of Life and Family,
Thank you for your heroic witness and numerous sacrifices offered on behalf of the most vulnerable of our global societies. As fellow servants of Life and Family, HLI has experienced the powerful life-changing impact of Pregnancy Centers and the services they offer.
Heartbeat International's mission is to “Reach and Rescue as many lives as possible, around the world, through an effective network of life-affirming pregnancy help, to Renew communities for Life.” This effort is possible and actualized because you believe that every precious life matters and has inherent dignity – is unrepeatable and deserves to be protected and served.
Your intercession has not only saved the lives of countless innocent pre-born children and their families from the violence of abortion, but it has also inspired greater awareness of our need to step out of our comfort zone and dare to stare the ongoing, physical reality of abortion in the face. Nothing brings home the brutal reality of abortion like standing on a sidewalk watching as men and women walk into an abortion facility to have their precious children killed. This experience can be gut-wrenching, but it’s also exactly what many of us need to shake off our complacency and light a fire in our bellies for Life.
Your great mission challenges every member of society, Christian and non-Christian, to answer the questions, “Who is my neighbor?” and “Lord, when did I see you hungry, thirsty or naked…?”
Because of your love and compassion, people who believe in the dignity and sacredness of all human life, women and their unborn children receive genuine care and support, no matter the circumstances. Your charity and intervention authentically helps women see past the pro-abortion propaganda and immediate struggle they face, offering a variety of true help and services. Heartbeat’s accompaniment stands in stark contrast to the death peddlers whose solution to a current “crisis” is the destruction of a child and a mother’s lifetime filled with misery and memories of “what could have been.”
I believe abortion will never end until every Christian man and woman of good will considers it a personal responsibility to do everything reasonably in his or her power to protect life. That’s because abortion is so deeply embedded in our culture, we can’t expect a mere change of the laws, or the correct
public relations “strategy”, executed by large pro-life organizations, to loosen its stranglehold. What we need above all is conversion of heart, on a societal scale. And unless Christians like you and me are out there, literally on the street corners, publicly witnessing to self-sacrificial love and the Gospel message that will never happen.
Yet, it is hard to comprehend what our world would be like without people like you willing to sacrifice for Love. There is no doubt that the grip of the Evil One and the Culture of Death would be far tighter. You seek no self-congratulatory praise but offer everything for God’s glory alone. Know that you, a unique and unrepeatable gift, are making an irreplaceable difference. You are saving lives, one heartbeat at a time.
Thank you for saying YES!
Fraternally in Christ,
Rev. Father Shenan J. Boquet
President of Human Life International
Join us for Fr. Boquet's keynote address at the 2018 Heartbeat International Annual Conference. Fr. Boquet will be just one of seven kenote speakers at this year's Heartbeat Conference in Anaheim, California. Click here to learn more and register!
by Tim Stephens, EWS Developer/Designer/Digital Marketing Specialist
". . . fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross. . ."Hebrews 12:2
Joy is a unique and beautiful concept. We regularly associate joy with feelings of happiness and glee and other fortunate states of wellbeing, but in the life of a Christ-follower, joy is often best represented in a steadfast service to His Kingdom during our trials and pain. Happiness and joy are not mutually exclusive, but while happiness is primarily influenced by external factors, joy is a consistent and internal state that surpasses our circumstance.
This is iterated time and time again throughout the Bible:
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” 1 Peter 1:6
“. . . sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” 2 Corinthians 6:10
As followers of Christ, we desire to imitate the servant spirit that Jesus has exemplified for us. His unrelenting and sacrificial servanthood and care endured all things - all trials, even to the cross – with Joy! Philippians 2:5 tells us that our attitude “should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” We are called to serve, as He did, with joy.
We aren’t promised happiness, particularly as we seek to serve the weary, the broken, the poor and the hurting, but we can find joy in the work that we do… and what better service to find joy in than to speak to and rescue life? In fact, what better service to experience happiness birthed from joy? As we reach the women and men that are scared and hurting, as we see the lives of innocent children saved and as we have opportunity to see first-hand some of those children grow and experience life, we can receive a happiness and glee beyond measure.
As I write this, I’m reminded of one of my favorite lyrics:
“Ever singing, march we onward,
victors in the midst of strife;
joyful music leads us sunward,
in the triumph song of life.”
Take time today to be encouraged and to encourage others as we march onward as victors in the midst of strife. We may be opposed, oppressed, and ostracized, yet we will move forward in obedience, with joy in our hearts and our eyes fixed on Jesus, in the triumph song of life.
by Ducia Hamm, Associate Director of Affiliate Services
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you HOPE and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV (emphasis added)
Back in the 1950’s, Curt Richter, a well-known Harvard graduate and scientist with Johns Hopkins University did a series of rather unorthodox experiments using water, buckets and rats that resulted in an amazing discovery. He wanted to see how long rats could swim before they drowned. Cringe-worthy no doubt! So you ask “What’s so amazing about knowing how long it takes for a rat to drown?” Bear with me for a bit longer…
Richter put rats into large buckets, half-filled with circulating water. Being notoriously good swimmers – the rats lasted about 15 minutes before giving up and succumbing to the depths of the bucket. Not impressed – I wasn’t either. All I was thinking was “Poor rat!” Richter must have read my mind.
In a follow-up experiment, as the rats started to give up and sink, he pulled the drowning rodents to safety, dried them off, gave them a brief period of rest only to put them right back into that same bucket. Here comes the amazing part – those same rats now swam for an average of 60 hours – YEP – that’s six with a zero or two and a half days.
A rat that was temporarily saved survived 240 times longer than one that was not given any intervention.
Richter’s conclusion: that saving a rat from drowning – even temporarily, gave that rat hope.
More often than not – clients come through your doors on any given day emotionally, spiritually and sometimes even physically “drowning”. They’re trying to just tread water as their life seemingly swirls around them, feeling as if they are getting pulled under at every turn. What these hurting women and men need is an infusion of hope. And that’s exactly what you do – when you answer the phone with a cheerful voice, when your clients are made to feel welcome by a friendly receptionist, when your Client Advocate radiates the Love of Christ so they treat clients as honored guests and not unwelcome, bothersome interruptions. You are essentially taking them out of the swirling waters of their lives, drying them off, providing your clients an opportunity to rest and give them an infusion of hope.
And that’s just what Heartbeat International wants you, as our treasured affiliates to experience as well. We understand that there will be times in your respective ministries that you will feel like you’re “drowning”. When those moments arise – and they will – we want you to know that help is just a phone call or email away. We are here for you with an encouraging word. We are available to listen and advise on an ongoing issue. Heartbeat consultants are available to provide affordable training seminars for staff, board and/or volunteers of pregnancy help organizations.
Also, Heartbeat International’s Pregnancy Help Conference provides a time to “dry off and rest”, offering that infusion of hope and strength to continue on in your mission. Heartbeat is here to encourage, empower and educate so you have the tools and resources that act as “life-preservers” enabling you to keep “swimming” until you reach the shore or at the very least, are in a place where your feet touch bottom (something those poor rats didn’t have).
Put it all together and add in the opportunity to network with fellow workers, you have the assurance that you are not swimming alone.
by Pastor Andy Merritt
Let me share with you why I believe the Heartbeat Conference is so important for you to attend. In Ezekiel 22 God confronts the nation of Israel with the sins that eventually brought God’s judgment, the most prominent being the shedding of innocent blood mentioned eight times. At the end of the chapter God says, I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one.
It takes great courage and involves great risk of life to stand in the gap; to rush to where the breach is in the wall, where the enemies of God are pouring in like a flood, to fight back the forces of evil, and repair the wall of righteousness. Sadly, in Ezekiel’s day, God found no one to stand in the gap. However, today you have chosen to stand in the gap in your local pregnancy center ministry. You are doing battle with the forces of evil to end the shedding of innocent blood, to rescue precious babies, and see their mothers and others redeemed by God’s grace.
Thank you for standing in gap! Thank you for being a contemporary hero of faith!
My point is this.
Standing in the gap is costly because it is there were the battle is most fierce, and in pregnancy center ministry we have seen the battle intensify and persecution escalate. It is inevitable wounds will be suffered, and often the greatest battle is not with the enemy, but with our own pain, weariness, & discouragement. Every soldier needs some R&R and that is why the Heartbeat Conference is so important for you to attend.
The Conference is a safe place to receive encouragement, equipping, and spiritual renewal in order to return to stand in the gap with even greater effectiveness. The theme for the Conference is “World Changers” and the key to changing the world is for God to change me. There is no greater priority than our personal relationship with God, because power to stand in the gap is dependent upon purity of heart and life in Christ.
I invite you to attend the sessions I will be leading which will focus on spiritual renewal for the battle. Everything shared will be in the context of and applied directly to pregnancy center ministry. The first is a Tuesday Pre-Conference In Depth Day, entitled, “How to Fight Through Adversity and Discouragement.” The second is a Wednesday 10:00am workshop, entitled, “Serving the God of the Impossible” (How To Deal With Hard Cases). My love and prayers are with you.
Hope to see you in Anaheim!
“Woman, believe me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the father . . . but an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the father in spirit and in truth . . . .” John 4: 21-23
There’s a Polish proverb which millennials often use today: “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” It’s a way of saying, “Don’t drag me into your drama and your issues—I’m not getting involved.”
My daughter used this phrase once and it captured me, because Jesus used this thinking often. The Samaritan Woman at the well in John 4 is a perfect example. We know the story; when Jesus asks the woman to call her husband, she says, “I have no husband.”
And what does Jesus say to this? He tells her something he would not be expected to know; that she has had five husbands and is currently living with a man who is not her husband. Stunned I’m sure, she responds, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.”
Let’s pause for a moment and say collectively, “No kidding!”
She goes on however: “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain and you people (Jews) say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”
Jesus response? In the words of the Polish proverb, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” In John 4:21-23 he cuts right to the heart of the matter, saying it doesn’t matter where we worship; it matters who and how we worship.
I love it. Jesus never got sucked in to religious debates on non-essential issues. He was about one thing: Reconciling men and women with his father. To Jesus, peripheral matters were a waste of time.
When we reach out to those who enter our centers, clinics and maternity homes, we can count on faith questions. But just like the Samaritan Woman, many of these questions will be peripheral, such as “Do you believe in this doctrine? Do you believe a Christian can do this? That?”
Most of the time, those seeking answers to peripheral issues want to find a dividing point; a way to say, “You don’t believe like me, so I won’t listen to you.”
If we wish to reach others with the love of Christ, our mission begins by finding the heart of the matter, like Jesus did. A few moments after the Woman at the Well asked her non-essential question, Jesus’ response—piercing her heart—led her to say, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that one comes, he will declare all things to us.”
Aha. Jesus prodded her to something new, something bigger than her “where do we worship?” question.
Then, Jesus said, “I who speak to you am he.”
Wow. All because Jesus found the heart of the matter. For Jesus, the “where to worship” argument was “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” And within minutes, a heart was changed.
It’s a good lesson for us. Let’s seek the wisdom to lovingly say, “Not my circus, not my monkeys” to some of the questions we are asked—and seek the heart of the matter. For someone searching for true answers, it can make all the difference in the world.
by Keith Ferrin, Guest Writer
The new year is upon us. For most people, that means New Year’s Resolutions. And for most Christians, one of the resolutions includes some form of the phrase “read the Bible more consistently.”
But how do we do it? How do we stick with it? How do we find a way to truly connect with God through His Word on a regular basis?
Helping people answer these questions has been my passion – and the centerpiece of my writing and speaking ministry – for the last 22 years.
In all transparency, I am passionate about it because I haven’t always loved the Bible. There…I said it.
I always felt like I “should” read it more consistently. I “should” know it better after being in the church my whole life. I “should” talk about it more. I “should” memorize more verses. The “shoulds” kept piling up…for almost 25 years!
Then, beginning in the spring of 1993, the “should” changed to “want.” It was amazing!
I started looking at the Bible differently. I started reading it differently. I started enjoying it more. I started studying it in a way that I remembered it days and weeks later. My time in the Word began to have a greater impact on my everyday life.
In short, I made two shifts in my Bible reading.
Pause and ask yourself this question: Why do I read the Bible?
What was your answer? I have asked this question hundreds of times to thousands of people. A majority of the time, the answer comes down to something like this…
“I read the Bible to know what God wants me to know, so I can do what God wants me to do, and live a life that glorifies Him.”
Sounds good, right? After all, knowing, doing, living, and glorifying are good things!
While all four of these are fantastic, I no longer believe they are the primary reason for being in God’s Word. Here is what God revealed to me over the course of 12-18 months starting in the spring of 1993…
“The primary purpose for reading the Bible is to hang out with Jesus. The Bible is the only book that’s ever been written for the purpose of helping you fall in love with the Author.”
Put even more simply: Read the Bible relationally, not informationally.
The best part is that the more relational our approach – and the more we fall in love with Jesus – the more He will teach us, encourage us, shape us, challenge us, and mold us into people who live lives that glorify Him.
We are not setting aside knowing, doing, living, and glorifying. We still accomplish all of those things as an outflowing of the beautiful relationship God has desired all along!
My approach to HOW I study the Bible (and the flaws I see with many of the Bible study methods I have tried in the past) can best be explained by thinking about movies. (Yup…movies.)
I love movies. Funny. Moving. Intense. True stories. Twisty-Turny. I love all kinds of movies.
Now, imagine you and I sit down to watch a movie neither of us has ever seen. The opening credits fade into the first scene. We are both drawn into the characters, setting, and mood of the film. As Scene 1 transitions to Scene 2, I push the Pause button and say, “Let’s discuss that. What did you think?”
After an awkward conversation, I push Play and we watch Scene 2. Then I pause the movie again and want to discuss it. Then Scene 3…
What do you think? Would you enjoy that? Me neither!
And yet, don’t we frequently do that with the Bible? We read one verse, or maybe a chapter. Then we study it, think about what it means, and try to find the truth to apply. The next day, we do it again.
We study the scenes before we watch the movie!
Don’t get me wrong. Studying the “scenes” in the Bible is immensely valuable. However, if you truly want to enjoy the Bible watching the “movie” of an entire book is where we need to start.
If you and I watch a movie, and after the movie we discuss a scene, character, or plot twist, the watching AND the discussing will BOTH be enjoyable.
If you want to enjoy – and remember – what you read in the Bible, start with a relational mindset. Then pick up a book of the Bible and “watch the movie.” Read the book – in its entirety – every day for a couple weeks. Then go back and “study the scenes.”
You will be amazed at how much more you see. And how much more you enjoy what you read!
Keith Ferrin is the author of Falling in Love with God's Word. If you would like to hear more from Keith, register for his webinar, Jumpsart YOUR Time in God's Word on January 18, 2018!
Founder of That You May Know Ministries, Keith has been doing Scripture presentations since March 1996. He has served as a speaker for retreats, conferences, outreach events, and fundraisers. His practical, humorous, and thought-provoking style makes the Word come alive for audiences of all ages and backgrounds. From December of 1991 to August of 1997, Keith was a youth and worship pastor in Tacoma, Washington. Since then, That You May Know Ministries has been his primary vocation.
“Then Paul answered, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’” Acts 21:13
Paul was a man on a mission, headed for Jerusalem—even when common sense stood in the way. In Acts 21 we see the story of Paul’s travels and a couple of uncommon occurrences. First, in Acts 21:4 the disciples warn Paul (through the spirit of God, no less) not to set foot in Jerusalem.
Yet, Paul appears to ignore this counsel, instead moving toward that very city, stopping in Caesarea to stay with Philip the evangelist. While there, we have our second uncommon occurrence: A prophet, Agabus, came from Judea. He took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands saying, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: ‘In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’”
Those gathered did what any of us would likely do; they begged Paul not to go to Jerusalem (Acts 21:12). Common sense, right? How many times did God have to make this clear?
Everything added up perfectly. Paul’s response then, should have been, “I’ll stay right here with you folks; Jerusalem is off my list of destinations.”
But Paul decided to go anyway. Some might read this and say, “This was Paul’s mistake.” Maybe they are right.
Perhaps however, Paul was being given a choice. Knowing danger awaited in Jerusalem, he could choose the common-sense path and avoid persecution. Or, he could go forward in service to Christ, knowing exactly what was ahead.
Agabus’ prophecy proved correct. In Jerusalem, Paul was dragged from the temple, beaten and bound with chains (Acts 21:30-33).
Yet something else happened in Jerusalem, too. Jews and Gentiles alike were encouraged through Paul’s visit there. In addition, the good news flourished, even as Paul experienced incarceration and several trials.
In our lives and in our work, sometimes all the arrows appear to point toward a common-sense decision. Sometimes, those arrows are correct. But we need to at least leave room for uncommon-sense decisions which appear to fly in the face of conventional wisdom.
We must also be aware that “uncommon” decisions can lead to trial. We might lose something—as Paul lost a portion of his freedom—through an uncommon-sense decision.
Biblical historians may argue over whether Paul made the right choice, but we can know this: Paul’s decision was based on a desire to serve his master, and to take the good news message anywhere it was needed—no matter the personal cost. Because of Paul’s decision to think in terms of serving, God continued to use him in a mighty way.
When we find our work has a cost, we can take heart. We may not always make the correct decision, but we can know that if our heart is one of servanthood, God can work through us in ways we cannot imagine.
by Jay Hobbs, Communications and Marketing Director
You’d be hard-pressed to wordsmith a more hopeless turn of phrase than what we find in Isaiah 8:20—especially if you’ve ever endured a sleepless night, searching the horizon for the first sign of sunlight.
In his indictment of the self-righteous Southern Kingdom of Israel, the prophet Isaiah charges that, rather than hearing the word of God and listening to it, the nation’s leaders and teachers had shrunk back in embarrassment from God’s truth.
“To the teaching and to the testimony!” calls Isaiah, with the fervor of a battle-tested general. “If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.”
And there’s the hammer: “They have no dawn.”
What could be more hopeless than an endless night, with no hope that the sun will ever shed its glorious rays? Like nothing else on earth, sunlight dispels the gloom of night, giving life and vitality to what was—just moments before—cloaked in mystery and doubt.
And at that moment in history, Israel’s dawnless night was about to get far worse. Soon, all of the Northern Kingdom would be occupied by Assyria while the Southern Kingdom would be led off into 70 years of Babylonian captivity, only to return to a land laid bare in their two generations of expulsion.
Called and beloved as the people of God—His own vessel for shedding the light of His glory to the surrounding nations—Israel was plunged into “distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish,” Isaiah says to conclude chapter 8.
A darkness with no dawn. Sounds almost too bad to be true, until you realize that it’s not just a people in some far off land who walked through this night. It’s all of us, wandering hopelessly through the darkness.
It’s a darkness written all over the faces of the women we serve every day. A darkness that’s often intensified by a lifetime of broken promises and emotional abandonment has now come to another point of darkness.
To her, it’s a darkness without any hope of a dawn.
Kind of makes you want to light that first Advent candle—the “Hope” candle—and sing a Christmas carol, doesn’t it?
Amazingly, that’s just what Isaiah does. In the very next verse, he delivers a message from the Lord that, against this grim backdrop: “There will be no gloom for her who was in anguish” (Isaiah 9:1).
Instead of gloom, shame and devastation, God would bring about a glorious change that wouldn’t just heal Israel, but would extend God’s love and favor to those of “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Rev. 7:9).
Against the deepest darkness of a dawnless night, and into “a land of deep darkness,” God was going to one day bring light: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2).
Of course, looking ahead 700 years from Isaiah’s word, Jesus himself—“The true light, which gives light to everyone.” (John 1:9)—would fulfill this prophecy. Against all odds and amid the wreckage of abandoned hope, God shed His light onto a darkened world.
This Christmas season, we remember that the hope of light has come into our darkened world. And that light’s name is Jesus.
May our hearts be enlightened by His Advent, and may God shine His light on every woman, every man and every child we seek to serve this season.
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