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Feeling The Exposure 

As Pastor Tim has been preaching on different gifts and roles within the body, I had a brief and intriguing conversation.  This person’s job required them to work outside; sometimes the weather was bitter cold.  At the same time, they had to have their index finger exposed to operate a handheld device.

A Part of the Body; Isolated and Exposed

Sherri and I have recently returned from visiting FCC’s missionaries in Africa.  We observed their isolation from fellowship and family, their daily challenges, along with the persistent dangers they face.

I appreciate the imagery of the exposed finger and our missionaries because “they” are not alone in their susceptibility.  The truth is – “we”—the local body of Christ—has part of “our” body isolated and exposed.

Consider the implication of the outside worker’s exposed finger.

The body feeling the distress and discomfort of the finger’s exposure is a good thing.  If the body ceases to feel the sting and ache of the finger, that is convenient but dangerous.  I encouraged the person who works outside, to do everything they can to make sure they always “feel” the exposed finger.

 

Jack Colwell is an elder at Faith Community Church. 

Posted in: missions, Uncategorized

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The Mission of the Church

by William Judson

What is the role of the church in the Great Commission? Her role is to go out in the power of the Spirit, in the name of Christ, for the glory of the Father to make disciples of all ethnic groups in the world. Jesus, having been given all authority, promises to be with us as we seek to make disciples (converts) among all the nations. But that raises the question: to whom do we go? Do we go to those who already have access to the gospel, a church on every corner? Are the people in our offices and worksites “unreached?” To understand these questions, we need to go to the Scriptures.

The Great Commission is given to us in Matthew 28. Jesus sends us out in his name, to proclaim his death and resurrection. We see this authority and power manifested in the book of Acts. Specifically in Acts 1:8, Jesus recommissions those gathered by telling them that they will be his witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. As Acts unfolds we see the apostles going into every town, proclaiming and reasoning with the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah and that he has risen. This proclamation results in persecution, which serves as God’s catalyst to send out workers into his harvest of the nations (Acts 11:19; Matt. 9:37-38).

By London Missionary Society, National Portrait Gallery, via Wikimedia Commons

Bechuana Congregation and David Livingston, via The London Missionary Society

God’s plan has always been for the nations. From his covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15; 17) to the Great Commission (Matt. 28; Acts 1:8), from Peter’s vision in Acts 10 to the return of Christ (Rev 5; 7). God is seeking to glorify himself among all peoples, tribes, and languages. God has promised that there will be a people from every tribe, language, and nation that will confess that Jesus is Lord and that the Father raised him from the dead. So we go to those who have never heard.

The unreached and unengaged are those with little to no access to the gospel. To bring their utter plight into view I want to paraphrase something I heard David Platt, President of the International Mission Board, say at a conference. He said, “If every Christian in the world were to go out and share the gospel with every person they knew, and that by God’s grace every person truly repented and believed, and then they told every person they knew, and so on, there would still be 2.9 billion unreached and unengaged peoples in the world.” Currently, there are 2.9 billion people in the world who are not giving the glory due to God. There are approximately 7.5 billion people in the world, most of whom, if we’re honest, aren’t Christians. But within that group, about 40%, have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. They have no access to the Scriptures or a local church. They have probably never met a Christian. They stand condemned before God unless they repent and believe in Christ as Lord and Savior.

In Romans 10, Paul states: “How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent?” As a church, we need faithful senders and faithful goers. We need those to be sent to those who have never heard. We need one another to reach the unreached. We need one another to accomplish Matthew 28 and Romans 15:20. Our aim should be to reach those where Christ has not been named until we have no more work left in this world.

William Judson is a member of FCC.

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Book Review: These Are the Generations

By Susan Verstraete

Grandmother Bae burned all three Bibles that her family owned. All night long she sat by the fire, tearing two or three pages at a time out of the book she loved and feeding it to the flames.  A North Korean State Security Officer could knock at any time, which made keeping the books just too dangerous.

Can you imagine what was going through her mind as she burned the sacred pages? Did tears stream down her face? Did she wish she had memorized more? And what was Grandfather Bae thinking as he guarded the door until it was finished? How could he lead his family without the Word? How could God save their family or the rest of North Korea when Scripture was outlawed?

These are the Generations tells the exciting and heart-wrenching story of the next three generations of the Bae family, Chinese Christians who escaped to North Korea to flee persecution by the Japanese after World War 2.

I’ve read a great number of Christian biographies, but this one struck me as unique in its honesty about the extremely difficult choices faced by believers under persecution. For example, some Christian families actually hid their beliefs from their own children for fear that the children might slip up in public and bring the Security
Office to the family doorstep. Others, like the Bae family, felt they had to burn God’s Word. A Christian mother asked her son to steal to keep the family from starving, and her believing son did what she asked.  The Pastor hid in fear when the Japanese army came to burn down his church, and no one spoke openly about Christ.

I kept asking myself, “What would I have done? Where’s the line between protecting my family and betraying my faith?”

The only criticism I have of the book is that the gospel is not clearly explained in this narrative. At times it sounds as if being a Christian is equivalent to obeying the Ten Commandments, for example, and Mr. Bae never mentions Christ. But Mrs. Bae does mention Him later in the book, and I think that this oversight may be attributed to the lack of systematic teaching in their lives rather than to a completely faulty understanding of redemption. Still, while I heartily recommend reading These are the Generations as a family, I wouldn’t  let a preteen read it alone without making sure to explain that we all often believe more than we articulate.

Susan Verstraete is the Church Secretary at FCC.

 

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Two Book Reviews: Biographies of Paul and Margaret Brand

The Gift of Pain: Why We Hurt and What We Can Do About It

Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, Zondervan, 1997

Paul Brand was a medical missionary in India, and the son of missionaries. He specialized in treating people who suffered from leprosy and is credited with being the first to discover that leprosy did not cause rotting of the flesh, as previous generations has supposed. Brand observed instead that the disease deadened the nerves that brought messages of pain to the brain. Without these messages, his patients repeatedly injured themselves. These injuries became infected and caused the loss if fingers and toes, and often the loss of ability to earn a wage. Brand fought this progression with surgical and practical means—surgically rerouting healthy tendons to replace deadened ones, for example, and sending each patient home with a cat, so rats didn’t chew off numbed digits while the patients slept. He set up a school to teach those with leprous hands how to safely use them to earn a living as a carpenter or plumber, and set up a cobbler’s shop, where customized shoes were made to protect the deformed feet of his patients. Brand spent decades treating patients who could not feel physical pain, and though it sounds odd to our sensibilities, he said, “If I could give any one gift to my patients, it would be the gift of pain.” The Gift of Pain is available through Amazon.com and CBD.com.

If you prefer to watch the Brand’s story on video, here’s a link to a three-part series by Day of Discovery http://www.dod.org/Products/DOD1982.aspx . (It does graphically show the effects of leprosy on the hands and eyes, and may not be suitable for tender-hearted children.)

Vision for God: The Story of Dr. Margaret Brand

by Dr. Margaret Brand and Dr. James Jost, Discovery House, 2006

“We always believed that the Lord who took us in would take us through, adventure by adventure.”-Dr. Margaret Brand

Her baby was just two weeks old when the note came, asking Dr. Margaret Brand to go to work part time, without salary, in the mission hospital where her husband was on staff. The note arrived by messenger and said, “We must have help in the eye department.” It couldn’t have been a worse fit. Margaret had actually missed the ophthalmology rotation in her medical school training and had no experience in the field. She wrote back, “I know nothing about eyes. You’ll have to look for someone else. Sorry.” One hour later there was another knock on the door. The messenger once again handed Margaret a note. “You’ll learn,” it said. “Please start on Monday.”

To say that she learned is an understatement. That first day, the small eye clinic saw nearly 400 patients. Within a few weeks, she had learned to remove cataracts, a major cause of blindness in sun-drenched India. In eye camps held in remote villages, the team might perform 100 surgeries in a day, literally saving the lives of those who could no longer work to support themselves because of their blindness. Over the years, Margaret would also learn much about how the disease of leprosy affects the eye, and became the world’s foremost expert in the field. She pioneered surgical techniques to restore the ability to blink to her patients’ paralyzed eyelids and, still without becoming board certified in ophthalmology, became the Chief of Ophthalmology at the National Hansen’s Disease Center in Carville, LA.

But this biography is much more than a medical journal. Margaret tells us what it was like to raise six energetic youngsters in a foreign and sometimes dangerous country. Someone always seemed to be having an adventure—like the time the pet leopard punctured their daughter’s jugular, the time Margaret locked herself and some friends in a padded cell in an abandoned mental hospital, the time the gibbon grabbed her daughter’s hair and Margaret played tug-of-war with her screaming child, the time marmalade exploded inside all their trunks on a sea voyage, the day they were presented to the Queen and Margaret twisted her ankle when she curtsied, and the many times one or another of the family succumbed to a tropical disease. All this happened as Margaret and her husband Paul homeschooled six children, became world-class authorities on the treatment of leprosy and, most importantly, shined the light of the gospel into the spiritual darkness of India.  Vision for God is available through Amazon.com and CBD.com.

 

Posted in: Biography, Book Review

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Heading Up the Road and Killing the Snakes

By Matt Greco

Have you ever met and visited with someone who is considered a legend?  Someone who has risen to the top in his or her field and is now or has been considered one of the best ever?  I have been blessed to meet several “legends” in my lifetime.  Some of those individuals are famous and some of them infamous, but all of them would be considered legends in their respective fields.

While I was in college and a bouncer at a disco club (over 30 years ago), I met and spent several hours with Wolfman Jack.  Parents and Grandparents—you may need to explain who Wolfman Jack was.  My family and I met and had some BBQ with C & W superstar Tim McGraw, which I wrote about in the church’s newsletter several months ago.  I also spent about 30 minutes talking football with all time NFL great Anthony Muñoz.  He was recently voted the top offensive lineman ever!  Anthony and I talked after my son Gil worked out with him. These individuals would be considered legends.

But, I think the greatest legend I have ever met and spent time with is an unassuming 80-year-old man who you all know.  In fact, about 250 of you had dinner with him and his wife the other night.  The legend about whom I speak is missionary Frank Drown.

There is not enough time or space to tell you all the things that Frank has done in his 67 years as a missionary.  You could purchase several books that have been written about his life and his ministry and learn a lot from them.  You could watch the documentaries and the films that have been produced of which Frank plays a major part.  You would be able to learn more about him through those productions.

You could meet with and talk the thousands or even hundreds of thousands that have been impacted or influenced by his and his wife Marie’s faithfulness to proclaiming the Gospel to the nations.  He is probably most famous for rescuing the dead bodies of Jim Elliot and his team, after they were slain by the Auca Indians in Ecuador.  We will not know all that Frank has done for the cause of Christ until we all stand in glory.

If you were to ask Frank if he thought he was a legend, he would probably just look at you and flash that ready smile.  He would probably talk to you about his most recent missionary project in Canada, or about the Huaorani New Testament which is written in the language of the Auca‘s, or about some other project on which he has been working.  In all my conversations with Frank, it has never been about Frank, it has always been about proclaiming Christ and His kingdom

Master Sergeant Bret Holder perhaps said it best.  While visiting with Bret after Frank had spoken at the Missionary Banquet, he said, “If that guy were a Marine, he would have stripes up and down both arms”.  Well said Master Sergeant, well said.

My granddad used to talk about people who had, “… been up the road and killed the snakes.”   I think that Frank help make the road that those guys went up.  He has served in missions for 12 years longer than I have been alive!

There is a saying in Spanish, “The years don’t come by themselves.”  As we age, some things don’t work as well as they once worked.  The Drowns sent me a letter after the banquet saying they wanted to do a better presentation.  Perhaps the next time Frank and Marie are our guests we will do a type of interview with them.  But please don’t lose the importance of Frank’s message, which for me was simple and profound:

  1. Mission work (God’s work) is very hard work, but if God has called you to do it, He will help you do it!
  2. You might have to learn a new language, or go to a different country, or leave comfort behind, but if God has called you to do it, He will help you do it!
  3. Some things might not go like you want them to go (90% of your stuff might not make the trip), but if God has called you to do it, He will help you get through it.

So we can take Frank and Marie’s message about mission work and apply it to mission work or any Christian endeavor.  We can take a look at a couple whose lives have been totally dedicated to serving Christ and understand that if God has called us to do something similar, then He will help us do it.

Matt Greco is the headmaster at FCA and serves on the missions committee at FCC.

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Holy Savior, The Savior = San Salvador, El Salvador

By Matt Greco (from 2012)

2 Corinthians 5: 20 “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.  We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 

There are many excellent reasons why everyone from the USA who is a born again believer should go on at least one short–term mission trip.  Here are three that come to mind.  You can probably think of several others.

  1. A short–term trip can open a person’s eyes to Christianity and the opposition to Christianity in another part of the world.
  2. A short–term trip can expose someone, at least partially, to what missionary work and a missionary lifestyle are like.
  3. A short–term trip can get a person outside of their comfort zone and take away their ability to be resourceful.

20 short–term missionaries, 17 from Faith Community Church (FCC), just got back from a short–term mission trip to the Central American country of El Salvador.  We spent a total of nine days on the trip and most of the time was in Chalchuapa, a small town in the western part of the nation.

The Lord put together a very interesting team; 11 were under the age of 20, of the 11, four were 13 years or younger.  We had three sets of one parent with one child, two elders/pastors, one deacon, a college student, a seminary student and two complete families.  The group was not a typical short–term mission group, but the group worked well together and represented FCC and the body of Christ in a God-honoring way.

AMBASSADORS FOR CHRIST – In 2 Corinthians 5:14 –21, Paul encourages believers in Corinth to be ambassadors for Christ.  As true members of the body of Christ, all of us at FCC are ambassadors for Christ.

Most of you have probably never met an ambassador of a nation.  Generally speaking, an ambassador is an official representative from a nation that has been sent to another nation.   The ambassador has been given the authority to speak for the president or ruler of the sending nation to the president or ruler of the host nation.  During the 14 years we lived in Argentina, there were five different U.S. Ambassadors to Argentina.

So, as ambassadors for Christ, what are our responsibilities?  We are given the responsibility to bring the message of salvation in Jesus Christ (Paul calls it the word of reconciliation) to the “nation” where the Lord has sent us.  As  short–term missionaries, we were acting as ambassadors for Christ.  We were focused on bringing the message of salvation in Jesus Christ to the nation of El Salvador in a variety of ways.  Some of our activities were to:

  • Build a children’s sanctuary
  • Do some street evangelism
  • Have training classes on how to teach
  • Have training classes on how to prepare Bible lessons
  • Teach cooking classes
  • Meet with all the students of the Christian school that the church sponsors
  • Have a vacation Bible school
  • Preach, sing, give testimonies, lead devotionals, etc…

But if you are not a short–term or long–term missionary, how can YOU be an ambassador for Christ?

ALLOW GOD TO WORK THROUGH YOU – Paul writes, “…God making His appeal through us…”  Maybe you did not go to the nation of El Salvador, but suppose God is sending you as His ambassador to the nation of An Ungodly Workplace?  Or perhaps you are an ambassador for Christ to the nation of The Non-Believing Family?  I understand that there are usually openings to be an ambassador for Christ to the nation of Living Out Your Christianity While Going Through Tough Times.

What I mean to say is that wherever we are and whatever we do, we are ambassadors for Christ.  The best way to have success in being an ambassador for Christ is to allow God to work through you.  Another great thing about a short–term mission trip is that it allows you to focus primarily on allowing God to work through you.

I would encourage everyone to go on a short–term trip.  Do not allow excuses of age or finance to stand in your way.  On our trip to El Salvador, we had an eight-year-old on the team and I have served with 80-year-olds!  If money is the problem, plan a year or two in advance and earn the money to go.

And whether going on a short–term trip is in your immediate future or not, be the best ambassador for Christ to whatever nation He sends you.  We will be praying for you!

Sincerely and in Christ,

Matt Greco

Matt Greco is the headmaster at FCA, a member of FCC and is on the Missions Committee.

Posted in: missions

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“Let the Nations Be Glad” A Hymn Meditation based on Psalm 67

By Matthew Swain

“God is pursuing with omnipotent passion a worldwide purpose of gathering joyful worshipers for Himself from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. He has an inexhaustible enthusiasm for the supremacy of His name among the nations. Therefore, let us bring our affections into line with His, and, for the sake of His name, let us renounce the quest for worldly comforts and join His global purpose.” – John Piper

Let the Nations Be Glad

Let the glory of the Lord forever be our joylet-the-nations-be-glad
May redemption be the theme of our song
For by grace we have been saved
And by grace we shall proclaim
To the corners of the earth that Christ has come

Let the nations be glad
Let the peoples rejoice
For salvation belongs to our God
Let the whole earth be filled
With the praises of the Lord
For salvation belongs to our God
Let the nations be glad

Through the ages gone before
Through the trial and the sword
Many saints and martyrs conquered, though they died
Still we’re holding out the cross
Crossing oceans, suffering loss
Shall endure all things to win the crown of life

As Your holy church goes forth
In the Holy Spirit’s power
With the glories of the gospel to explain
Now we pray Your kingdom come
And we pray Your will be done
For the honor and the glory of Your name

Matt Boswell | Aaron Boswell | Matt Papa
© 2010 Dayspring Music, LLC (a div. of Word Music Group, Inc.)

Faith Community Church recently had the privilege of sending some of her very own to the mission field.  In so doing, Christ’s command that we “Go . . . and make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 29:19) has been fulfilled in part.  Our “farewells” have wrought tears mingled with joy and sorrow as we, for the moment, have come to grips with the sober reality of the sacrifice required in taking the Gospel to the nations.

While scripture can never be supplanted, songs rooted therein can help inform our theological understanding on such matters. Let the Nations Be Glad, a hymn roughly based on Psalm 67, is one example. Stanza one begins with the reality that missions starts first in the heart of man through salvation. God’s glory is most brilliantly on display through our redemption in Christ, which is an unmerited gift of grace (Eph. 2:5). It was British missionary to the Belgian Congo, Charles Thomas Studd, who rightly stated, “The light that shines farthest, shines nearest at home.” The fuel of missions is first fanned into flame by the ever-intensifying reality of Christ and our salvation within the heart of man.

Stanza two connects our present call to the nations with the church past as a means of encouragement. We ought to find solace, comfort, and courage knowing that “a great cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1) has gone before us in faithful obedience to the Great Commission. We are presented with the paradox that faithful obedience to this mandate, resulting in possible trial, sword, even death will yield a “crown of life.” For this we fear nothing and joyfully “endure all things.”

Finally, Stanza three reminds us that as we carry the gospel forth we go in the power of the Holy Spirit. The text concludes with Jesus’ own words from the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13) and with an unmistakable sense of urgency that our call to take the Gospel to the nations is now. Will we continue to be faithful?

Dr. Matthew Swain is the Pastor of Worship at FCC and Assistant Professor of Worship Ministries at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

 

Posted in: Worship

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