Thursday, October 27, 2005

“If God Doesn’t Help Me I’ll Be Dead Tonight.”

I remember his panicky eyes.

His whole body was trembling.

The meeting was about to start. The man had asked to talk to one of the ministers.

I shook his hand and felt him grab hold to keep from collapsing.

“If God doesn't help me I’ll be dead tonight.”

I knew this was serious. “You came to the right place—God will meet you here tonight.”

“I don’t know if He’ll want to help me. He knows what I did to my neighbors eleven-year-old daughter.

“If I’m alive tomorrow I must face her father and the police.

“I used to serve God. I knew it was wrong, but I looked God in the eye and did it anyway.”

He collapsed against me.

I found him a seat near the altar by an altar worker. “You are doing the right thing,” I encouraged him. “Just open your heart to God during this service and I’ll meet you at the altar after the altar call."

But at the end of the service I couldn’t find him or the altar worker.

“Oh, no he’s gone—He didn’t make it.”

I wept as I pushed through the crowd to find him. Then I saw him making his way to me—he was calm and had his arms open to embrace me.

“You were right. God took me back. I know it will be hard tomorrow, but I can do it because He’ll be there to help me.”

The peace in his heart--that peace that passes understanding--was deep enough to conquer his fear of prison.

Monday, October 24, 2005

I Want You To Meet This Man

Kevin Donaldson, President of Mission of Mercy, recently spent some time in Swaziland and Mozambique with the Children's Cup Team.

Y'all know Jean and I cry a lot about our AIDS orphans. Well, I watched this man who funds the care of thousands of orphans around the world have the same emotions we have.

Check out his blog here.

I Know Things I Wish I Did Not Know

I guess it's normal for a man my age to look back and take inventory of his life.

Gifted wordsmiths have penned great and lofty words about their lives. Biographers have written great prose and even poetry about famed men's days and deeds.

The words this keyboard is beckoning my soul to write onto this computer screen won't be like that.

From the beginning I want to acknowledge that the most wonderful knowledge I have is a daily, intimate walk with Jesus. The Psalmist said it this way, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me-it is high, I cannot attain unto it." Psalms 139:6

Then I delight--with an intensity that almost becomes an ache--in the years of knowing my wife Jean and watching our children and our children's children grow into committed service to God.

How blessed I am. What greater joy could a man know? How could any mortal "attain" or contain such knowledge?

I have also been blessed to know many good and great people whose trust and honesty with me have helped shape my life and made our ministry possible.

Tears come easy as I stand in awe of God's great mercy to me.
Yet, unbidden tears of another kind come as I think about some other things I know. Like the (to say it in a wordy way) ubiquity of iniquity and the pervasion of perversion and perfidy that envelops the world today.

As a child I knew poverty-meal after meal of pancakes because that's all the money we had. There was a lack of money, but never a lack of love in my home. But now I live with the personal knowledge of thousands of homeless, helpless children--some have never even been given a name, children who have never known a loving hug. The only time others have touched them has been to hurt them. Some only eat one or two meals a week.

I watched in Zimbabwe as Pamela and Daniel's mother-a perfectly beautiful lady died of AIDS. Her husband, a religious leader had knowingly infected her with death before he died of AIDS.

Children's Cup has continued to care for Pamela and Daniel and every time I look into their eyes my senses go awash with an impossible swirling of love and anger and desire to "fix it."

Recently I preached in a church for Mozambicans in Swaziland. A young mother-barely out of her teens-brought her infant baby Fernanda up to be prayed for. Both mother and child are dying of AIDS. The baby's father infected the mother and then kicked her out.

They don't know which one will die first.

As Jean and I laid hands on her and prayed, the emotion of it overwhelmed us. What a responsibility to be the ones whose prayers she hoped would reach God. When you are praying against AIDS it is like you are face-to-face with hell.

Can God heal AIDS? Surely He can. Will He heal Fernanda and her mother? Will He heal Thembe? Is it too shameful of me to admit to you that right now I don't know if He will? Lack of faith? Negative confession?

I have no personal knowledge of a person being healed of AIDS, yet it has to be true He can. Is it on such a level of spiritual battle that my own life lacks the spiritual authority to defeat the disease? I'm sure the devil knows who has the spiritual authority to invade his realm. Or is it really about Jesus' authority and not mine?

Does it all depend upon my faith? Is it my fault if she is not healed? Even in the scriptures there is precedent for God to hear a feeble human prayer and intervene with His sovereign power. Fernanda's mother placed their hopes for healing on our prayers.

How inadequate I feel right now. I know things I wish I did not know about me.

I just received an invitation from USAID to consider setting up a relief project in Iraq. I can tell myself that it's impossible because Children's Cup demands more hours than days have and more days than weeks have. I can decline because we are opening a major work in Mozambique-I'm needed there.

I can tell that to myself and others, but I also know fear speaks with a very loud voice right now.

I am shamed by the knowledge that fellow believers around the world live in daily peril for the Gospel. The Word calls it "peril by choice."

Things I know about life and things I must admit about me make me crave a whole new level of intimacy with Jesus. And even as I typed that last sentence I felt God reminding me of Paul's prayer, "That I may know Him…"

Even as this thought now comes it is rebuking me. Instead of focusing on knowing Him and His power, these words have been a journey into knowing myself and my limitations.

"Lord, help me abandon what I know about my weakness and cling to what I know about your unlimited ability. Help me get so close to you I can, indeed, do as Peter did for the lame man at the gate.

"Help me to be that instrument you use to bring life to hurting people like Fernanda and her young mother.

"Stun the world with Your power to heal AIDS-for Your Glory. Amen."