Saturday, November 16, 2013

Technology’s Advantage

In an article entitled “Technology or Toys,” Rex Cobb, Director of Baptist Bible Translators Institute of Bowie, Texas, discusses the valuable use of technology, as well as its curse.  The following are some thought-provoking and truth-filled insights into the dilemma so many face on this topic.  Often we focus on the negative aspects of technology, but if we are bondslaves to Christ (as Paul was), we will note the actual purpose of anything we do with our time, including our use of modern technology. 

Please prayerfully consider his words.  Are you using technology in your life to reach this needy world with the Gospel and to redeem your valuable time for eternity?

Cobb’s premise is that modern technology can and should be used to further the Gospel.  He states,

“…Modern technology is useful in reaching the world with the Gospel.  We can sneak the Word of God in electronic form into places that are extremely hostile to Christians.  Let’s do more of it.”

While we should be amazingly adept at evangelism with all these apps out there, the job still isn’t getting done.  There’s no app for that!  Cobb notes,

“William Carey didn’t have a typewriter, and he produced forty Bible translations.  Who is coming that close with computers?  There are still thousands of unreached people groups, not to mention hundreds of thousands of towns around the world with no Gospel witness.  We lack men to go, and technology can’t replace them.  We can hardly send robots and drones programmed to shed tears and say, ‘I love you, and Jesus loves you, too.’”

Our chief purpose in life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  As believers, a major purpose of our existence on this earth is to fulfill the Great Commission.  Therefore, we can ask ourselves, “Is technology assisting my evangelism or hindering it?”  If technology is used to further the Gospel, to develop a website to reach Muslims with the Gospel, for example, then let us spend time doing so.  If reaching souls is not our central focus in our use of technology, then let’s turn off the TV, the Xbox, stop the texting, and get in the prayer closet, where we can actually get the power to do the work of evangelism and discipleship.

Cobb concludes,
“ . . .  Let’s invest in technological devices that will help us; but let’s not waste money on the latest toys, just because everyone is standing in line for them.  Let’s use what will help us reach our goal and resist things that distract us.  Let’s use technology to get our bodies to the uttermost part of the earth; but let’s control the things that tempt our hearts . . .”

Oh, that we might daily embrace our call to reach the unsaved world with the Gospel!  Evangelist John VanGelderen wrote the following lyrics years ago concerning the attitude we ought to have when we see people.
When I look into the faces of people everywhere,
Help me see lost souls in danger and headed to despair;
Help me see the flame approaching, 
Beyond their fleeting days,
If they die without a Savior, 
They are lost to Hell fire’s blaze.

Help me win the lost and see them in their need;
Help me win the lost, salvation’s cause to plead,
Help me win the lost, O, Spirit, please empower,
Help me win the lost, Oh, use me now this hour!

After considering the message of Cobb’s article, I added,

When I look at the devices of modern technology
Help me see designer tools for Gospel ministry
Help me see their full potential to reach the many lost,
Use my texts to speak for Jesus 
And point others to the cross!

Yes, for the sanctified believer, technology is trash unless used to further the intended purposes of God for us upon earth. (Paul counted all things as dung so that he might win Christ.) Let us spend time in the quiet, waiting upon our God and then, as He leads, use technology, sanctified because of the control of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives, to reach the world with His Gospel.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

God’s Sovereignty and My Surrender

Last year I made an astounding discovery:  God doesn’t need me.  He is sovereign, divine, just, righteous, and perfect, while I am nothing, saved by grace from the punishment I deserve in an eternal hell.  November is my birthday month and, taking stock of my life, I realized a thought pattern that needed complete elimination.  Just because I have “dedicated my life to the Lord” and have given Him free lease to accomplish His will in me does not mean God will use me in the way I had once imagined.

“I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Thy will for my life.  Use me as Thou wilt.  Send me as Thou wilt, and work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost, both now and forever.  Amen”—Betty Stam.

Taped to the front of my Bible, that prayer daily inspired, challenged, and encouraged me throughout my college years.  Would I give up everything for God?  The prayer became a continual exchange for me, a regular surrender. I began to dream—of the many ways God would use me, for I was convinced He would.

Surrender.  It’s still a theme in a few fundamentalist circles.  Somehow over the years I had adapted this inane notion that the more surrenders I made, the more God was obligated to use me.  In fact, nothing could be further from the truth:  God is good, and He has a right to do whatever He will with His own. While many Christian circles are neglecting challenging their young people to full-time service, there are still those who preach that surrender of one’s life is natural and normal Christian behavior (See Romans 12:2).  Certainly, in the zeitgeist of this day, emphasizing full surrender is lacking and ought be more esteemed.

I was not unlike many other Christian young people who grew up in my home church. At six, I gave God complete access to my life, said I was willing for Him to take me to the mission field, to give me a dozen children, to allow me to be put in prison, persecuted for Christ—whatever He wanted.  All the while, I imagined myself to be selfless.  And then, I again realized that God, in His sovereignty had neglected my imaginings and had given me a better plan.  His will.  A perfect way.  Far better than I ever could have dreamed.  Remember?  God doesn’t need me, but I can believe Him to work out His perfect will in my life.

As I examined my thoughts, I realized that the imagined life of surrender still exists in the minds of many—especially young women.  Aspirations and hopes fill their minds in a dreamy sense of reality that may or may never exist.  Christian girls who fast and pray for the man they will marry—but then never marry, because God has other plans—at last must meet a point at which their idea of surrender is re-evaluated.  Christian ladies who plan to go to a particular mission field to which they are convinced God has called them and then…He instead plans that they stay home, where they serve God in a way that is far from “glorious” in human eyes or do quiet work, unnoticed by others—must consider what they really meant when they dedicated themselves to “full-time” ministry.

Can there exist a sense of vain glory and the “pride of life” wrapped up in ambitious notions of surrender?  As I examined my own heart, I saw that the esteem of men had, at times, motivated me even more than the divine wishes of a sovereign God.  It became clear that, instead of focusing on what I had once heard depicted as “the best life possible”—meaning one spent as a missionary—or once heard proclaimed “the highest calling for women”—meaning time spent as a mother—I needed to adjust my gaze to view the never-changing Savior and embrace all He gives me as good and perfect gifts from His hand.

Dreams, goals, ambitions, desires—these may be good, but they are no substitute for meditation upon the sovereign God of the Bible.  It is His perfect way (Psalm 18:30) that we should desire more than our own fictitious world of dedicated surrender.  While giving oneself to the Lord is merely “reasonable service” (Romans 12:1), imagining that somehow, because God worked in others’ lives in a certain Christian fairytale-like way, He will do the same for us, is preposterous, if not sinful.  Let us muse more upon the Master and less upon ministry itself.  Let us substitute the Sovereign for our supposed surrender and abandon ourselves to this Architect’s blueprint.  Truly “our times are in His hands” (Ps. 31:15).

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Lessons from a Buddhist Stupa

Colorful prayer flags catch the daily breeze, "sending peace to the world," according to Buddhist tradition. Giant eyes, fastened to the top of the stupa, stare at onlookers, frighten little children, and provide a central reference point for all who venture this route in Kathmandu. Prayer wheels spin as devoted followers touch their wooden spindles, hoping that somehow their desires will be fulfilled. Emerging from beneath the dramatic archway that leads into the shrine, men and women, eyes creased with care and hands motioning toward the gigantic stupa, pause with eyes closed, convinced such a place provides safe haven for their worship.

This is Nepal, where 10% of the population practices Buddhism. Nirvana, karma, reincarnation--ideas the Western world uses in thought but not stereotypical worldview--dominate this culture, where 81% of the culture is Hindu. It is a polytheistic world, where animals, viewed as human or sacred, roam the streets unhindered and people greet each other with a phrase that, taken literally, means, "I bow to the god within you."

The idol store, located directly across from the giant eyes of the stupa, with its scores of images displayed for shoppers to take home with them, reminded me of the words of Psalm 115:4-8, which states, "Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands.  They have mouths but they speak not:  eyes have they, but they see not: They have ears, but they hear not:  noses have they, but they smell not; They have hands but they handle not:  feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat. They that make them are like unto them:  so is every one that trusteth in them."

Dumb. Blind. Deaf. Insensible. Unable to perceive. This is the condition of those who follow idols, who bow to a god that is insensible of their deepest needs, while they blindly adhere to this man-made tradition, misguided, unenlightened, ignorant. The care-worn faces, upturned at the unseeing eyes, remind me of such darkness, such inability to perceive because the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not.

But then I stop and consider that idolatry does not only affect those who are chained to the god of this world. Indeed, Colossians 3:5 warns believers to "mortify. . . covetousness, which is idolatry." Covetousness. Idolatry. Idolatry. Covetousness. Whenever I want what I don't have, what isn't God's reality for me; any time I am not satisfied with God's provision--this is covetousness indeed. And it is a horrible, awful sin in the sight of a holy God, who demands that all my heart, soul, and mind be consecrated to Him alone.

As I pass the Buddhist stupa in my next days in this country, may I ever remember that those giant, unseeing eyes reflect idolatry, the condition of my blinded heart when I am affected by the miserly sin of covetousness.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Oh, to Behold the Savior’s Face!

On a magnificent hike from Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park, my husband and I viewed the remnants of these charred trees, glimpses of a forest that once had been.  To many in their final days upon earth, the "had beens" of life are the only memories left upon the photo gallery of wasted years.  They wish for something they never attained. 

Someday all I will have left are memories, for my moments here will be past.  Considering that reality, my husband asked me last summer, “Won’t you be glad to see Jesus [in Heaven]?” 

I couldn’t answer him for a while, since I had to that time considered Jesus as my invisible God but had rarely reflected upon Him as the Perfect Man.  Someday, I realized, these eyes would behold my Friend who has walked with me on this journey below.  If I would but see this Friend beside me, encountering every danger and assisting me in defeating obstacles to bring me to victory--what a different life I would live!  How my conversation would be affected, my habits changed, my speech considerate of His Word and His perspective.  Never should I feel alone or lacking confidence, for He is ever at my side.  Never should I experience the pangs of unkind words, for He is my shield, my buckler, my protection, my fortress. 

When I did answer my husband that night, I said, “I think I would be ashamed."  How I long to live each day viewing my Friend with the eyes of faith, so that I with joy may behold His face in Heaven someday.
Oh, to behold the Savior’s face
Each day as I walk below
And to perceive His shadow near
Every pathway on which I go!

Oh that I’d know His presence close
As He journeys by my side
Oh, to live daily with my Lord,
In His Spirit to abide!

Then shall I enemies overcome;
My foes will defeated be.
And I shall face with confidence
The life God’s designed for me!

Then I’ll rejoice in His constant grace,
Secure in unending love;
And I’ll reflect Christ’s holiness
With an eye on the world above!

Oh that each day I might partake
In this view of my Savior God,
The Friend who has spared my cursed soul
From Hell’s ever-chastening rod!

Then shall my soul embrace His way
His Spirit, my face make shine!
Oh, for a view of Jesus Christ
Each moment to make sublime!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

This Vapor that Is Life

The news of her death stunned me.  Partly because she was the embodiment of my childhood dreams.  Partly because she had once seemed too perfect for what appeared to me a flawed ending.  Partly because I saw my life would be nearly extinguished had our roles been reversed.

Talent.  Spirituality.  Femininity.  Godly leadership.  She possessed them all.  Observing from a distance, I noted her life—and her death. 

She "home schooled all her children and coached them diligently in their piano and string practicing," the obituary read.  At 23, I had already written that in my plans for myself.  She "was a humble and kind homemaker who always had serving others as her goal." That was somewhere on the blueprint I had designed.  A women's speaker who encouraged others.  That, too, was on my list of goals. 

But just yesterday, stark reality met dreamy uncertainty.  News of her home-going awakened a deep spring somewhere in the depths of my being.  For any moment wasted at the wishing well of what ifs, I had only an uncertain number of nows.  This day, for one.  This breath for another.  

Every precious second counted.  Every minute mattered.  Every day demanded delight.  I had the gift of the present, the reality that may be lost at any time.  Do I drink deeply at the well of thanksgiving, daily rebounding from the plethora of blessings poured out from my ever good Giver? 

Oh, how this moment’s preciousness sparkled in my mind as I considered well the uncertain brevity of life.  May I never forget the vapor that is life!