Three Books by Jack TheWordMan

Sunday, September 18, 2011

INsights & OUTbursts 10, From Tiny Seed to Huge Tree

Remember Jesus illustrating the growth of God’s Kingdom as a tiny mustard seed growing into a tree?
If Jesus had been walking about northern California instead of northern Palestine, He would surely have held a seed the size and shape of an oatmeal flake in the palm of one hand, and with the other indicate a thirty storey-tall sequoia redwood tree.
What is less impressive than a flake of oatmeal and more impressive than a giant sequoia? Yet it accurately describes the growth of God’s Kingdom. I know. I have seen it up close and personal.

This summer's family vacation visiting the Big Trees

What is less impressive than the words, “John, would you like to go to a free concert?” and more impressive than the result of that simple invitation? Here’s my story.
Although I grew up in a religious home in the Netherlands, I had no assurance that my sins were forgiven and I had no peace with God. Three years after our family emigrated to Canada, my dad was working as a construction labourer, and a co-worker asked him if he would like to attend a free concert. My dad accepted the invitation and our whole family attended what turned out to be an evangelistic crusade led by the Janz Quartet. The singing was excellent and we came every night that week.
On the last day of the crusade, I admitted to God that I was a sinner and accepted His forgiveness because Jesus died in my place. I became a child of God in a new way and enjoyed a deep peace and joy within. I was just completing grade nine. A few months later I led my younger sister to faith in Jesus Christ.
Later that summer I spoke about prayer and God with my cousins whose family had also emigrated to Canada. Their family was not religious at all.
After our family moved to a different city, I began attending a church where the Good News about Jesus was taught clearly. Eventually the rest of my family attended too and soon my younger brother and my youngest sisters as well as my dad and mom came to a living, vibrant faith in Christ. My parents in turn led my aunt and uncle to faith in Jesus. My cousins too turned took Christ as their Saviour.
Later on during a visit to the Netherlands, my parents led a brother and a sister to Christ. I was active in church, went to Bible school and eventually two of my sisters, my brother and my cousin studied in Bible school as well.
Scores of people have been led to faith in Christ by members of our extended family. A number of us are in full-time Christian ministry, many others are heavily involved part time. My wife and I pastored a church for three years before we became missionaries and translated the Bible for a whole people group in Brazil. Dozens of Canela people turned to God and were adopted by Him into His family. I continue to write books promoting cross-cultural missions and speak frequently at Bible translation recruiting and fundraising meetings. Our extended family has influenced thousands of people towards the Kingdom of God.
All this began because one pick and shovel man invited another to a concert.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

#9 Jesus and the Flight Attendant

“Josh! Share your toys!”
“Ashley! Don’t grab all the cookies for yourself!”

Why do parents have to hassle their children like that? Because babies are born selfish, and it takes years of parental examples of selflessness, and lots of reminding, to get them to stop thinking only of themselves, and learn to empathize with the needs of others. It doesn’t come naturally.

I sometimes wonder what little kids think when they hear a flight attendant tell their mommy to be selfish. You’ve heard them. After the seat belt demonstration come the instructions for the oxygen mask. “If you are traveling with a small child, put on your own mask first, only then put the mask on your child.”

How rude and selfish! How unloving! What a terrible example to the little kid!

No, not really! When mommy makes sure she stays conscious herself she is acting in practical love to her poor, gasping little daughter beside her. It’s a basic principle of life. We must look after our own basic needs first, only then can we meet the needs of others.

Jesus, like the flight attendant, taught the same thing.

“Love God . . . and love your neighbour as you love yourself” was the preface to Jesus’ famous story of the Good Samaritan who stopped to help the naked, bleeding victim of a vicious mugging. He not only had compassion, he had wine and oil and cloth for bandages to treat the sufferer’s wounds. He had extra clothing for the victim to wear, and a donkey for him to sit on. And when they got to the inn, he had money to pay the innkeeper for food and rent. (Luke 10:25-37)

Before he started his journey, the Good Samaritan had made sure he had everything he needed for his journey. He was also ready to share what he had to meet the needs of others. He got ready to act in love to others by loving himself first.

The Bible teaches clearly that our human instinct to love ourselves and take care of our own needs is normal and natural. Yes, this natural instinct can be perverted just as other instincts can be, but unless we love ourselves enough to care for our own basic needs, we won’t be able to love others in any practical way.

Our world abounds in opportunities to show love to others. Newscasts are litanies of evil that decent people need to fight against: corruption in politics, destruction of marriages, unethical practices in business, and the heartless murder of the not-yet-born, etc. We hear of enormous physical and spiritual needs on mission fields around the world.

But what if we neglect our own physical, mental, and spiritual health? What if we don’t take care of our family and business responsibilities? What if we have only a cursory relationship with God? How can we possibly make an impact for good on these world needs?

We would be like a mommy who disobeys the flight attendant’s orders and tries to help her little girl first, but both end up slumped unconscious in their seats.