Leaving the Ninety-Nine

This weekend, my husband and I attended the 30th-anniversary celebration for China Partner, an organization that trains and equips pastors in China. Erik, the president, has carried on this ministry from his father, Werner, who was born in China and whose parents were missionaries in a place called Jiangxi province before China closed its doors to missionaries.

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Erik’s grandfather’s journal records that he led ten people to the Lord during the twenty-five years they ministered in China. This weekend we heard from Chinese pastors from Jiangxi that in the same place today there are 530 000 followers of Christ.

Ten people may not seem notable to our western way of thinking, their ministry may even have appeared a failure. But not in God’s economy. God will leave the ninety-nine to look for the one. That is how precious each of us is to him.

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.” (Matthew 18:12-13)

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Erik’s grandparents left Germany—left the ninety-nine—to go to China. The ten cherished souls who found Jesus in Jiangxi were forever changed, and so were their families. You see, in God’s economy, it doesn’t matter if the returns seem small, or if the work takes years and years. God sees the whole timeline, and eternity too—the forever place he made possible for us through Jesus’ death on the cross.

This is the Good News Erik’s grandparents went to China to share. It’s the same Good News their son carried back to China years later, the same gospel that Erik continues to minister in China and that these Chinese pastors also teach to this day.

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Erik and his father, Werner, receiving scrolls from the Chinese pastors of Jiangxi province.

Can’t you see it? The impact of one faithful couple—their hopes and dreams coming to fruition long after they entered eternity?

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

There will be times when it appears that the work of our hands is fruitless. In our present circumstances, position, or place we find ourselves, it may not appear that we are making a difference at all and that our efforts are wasted. But you can be sure that anything done in God’s name and strength will bear fruit. Whether we see it or not, we can trust God for the outcome.

“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.” (Isaiah 54:4) 

Like Erik’s grandparents, you may never see the fullness of your labor. You may never know the outcome of your faithfulness this side of heaven, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t bear an impact. How amazed do you think Erik’s grandparents would be to hear about the 530 000 souls who know Jesus today in the province they ministered in 94 years prior? So it is with us. Make no mistake, your life’s choices, work, and faithfulness matter and multiply far beyond what you can see.

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“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:11)

The next time you are tempted to give up on something or someone—or even give up on yourself—remember that this is never God’s posture toward us. He never turns his back on people. He never gives up. He never lets us go. His love offer is always available. The invitation to come to Jesus is for everyone and is only a prayer away.

You may feel weary in your work or relationships right now. You may feel like giving up. If you are discouraged, remember this truth: you are precious to God. Everyone and everything matters to Him. He sees it all—the past, present, and future all at once—and is in control. He made a way for you through His Son. Entrust your life and your troubles to Jesus and let Him be Lord of your life.

 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

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  1. In what area(s) do you feel discouraged?
  2. Hand it over to God trusting him for both strength and the outcome.

For more information about the ministry of China Partner visit: http://www.chinapartner.org

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Christmas is a Love Story

 

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This is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. I’d like to enjoy every moment, yet it’s easy for it be sabotaged by being too busy and distracted—a general theme at any time of year, but especially at Christmas.

There’s the shopping, the preparations, the parties, the presents, the dinners, and time with family. All of this can be lovely (except maybe the shopping), but it can also be stressful and exhausting.

The high hopes surrounding this one day can add a lot of pressure too. I typically have a picture of how this day will shake out. I should fully engage in each moment and live out of the peace and joy ever at my disposal, but it’s easy to enter Christmas exhausted and exit it disappointed when the hype failed to match the event. I wonder if Jesus’s mother struggled this way too.

Mary had anticipated her son’s birth, and then, nearing her due date, she endured a 90 mile trek on a mule’s back to register for a census in the town of her husband’s ancestors. But the hardship didn’t end there. You know the story. When they arrived in Bethlehem, there were “No Vacancy” signs everywhere. In the Christmas rush, they must have neglected to arrange an Airbnb.

At this point, I’d be on the verge of a meltdown. Between the pregnancy hormones and “this is not what I thought it would be” emotions, my husband would be walking on eggshells. Some cross words would likely spill out to the effect of: “I thought you were dealing with this!” and the atmosphere would worsen. As expected, he’d go into fix-it mode and a stable would be a less-than-ideal solution.

It’s interesting that this first Christmas resembles our Christmas. Frenzied and imperfect. I think that’s exactly how God planned it. The census, the stable, and all that surrounded the birth of Jesus was marked by hardship. Could God be trying to show us something?

The God of the universe could have provided ideal circumstances, ensured his son be born in a palace with a grand feast prepared to fittingly celebrate the king’s birth. But in his deep compassion for humanity, not only did he come humbly in human form, he experienced all that we experience, and more. If you wonder if God can understand your pain, think of Jesus—God in the flesh.

Christmas is really a beautiful love story. It’s the continued story of God declaring his massive love and faithfulness to us. It’s him seeking us, finding us, living among us, and ultimately dying for us. It was part of his plan from the beginning. All part of his extravagant love.

It’s my prayer that we replace the scurry and worry and find lasting joy in Jesus. That our hearts will be more full than our tummies. That despite the pace we will find peace. That we will love as God does: completely, unconditionally, and sacrificially.

But most of all, I pray that we will have a deep understanding of how fully we are loved. Know this: God send his son to be born to die for you. You matter that much to him. He made a way for you, amid all your personal struggles, failures, and pain, to receive the gift of salvation through Jesus.

This Christmas, I pray you’ll take hold of this life-changing, eternity-altering, heart-healing gift, and unwrap a new life in Christ.

Merry Christmas from my home to yours!

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” 

John 15:12-13

 

 

 

 

 

 

12 Treasures I’ve Learned from My Spiritual Mom

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My spiritual mom and I at a birthday celebration with “The Prayer Ladies”.

I call her my spiritual mom. We aren’t linked biologically but through the things of God. She’s been a constant in my life for over ten years, and we’ve shared many conversations and events. Without meaning to, or possibly knowing she has, Nancy has taught me many things. I thought it would be insightful to share these priceless morsels. It may sound like I’m bragging, but bear with me. I’m hoping one or two might be meaningful to you!

Continue reading “12 Treasures I’ve Learned from My Spiritual Mom”