Friday, September 11, 2015

A Very Special Kind of Crazy

A recent conversation led me to share the story of Nate Saint, Jim Elliott and the three other missionaries who gave their lives in the 1950’s trying to help natives in Ecuador with someone who had never before heard their story. One of the widows and the sister of one of the missionaries later went to live with the tribe, taking their children with them, and through their efforts many in the tribe turned from a destructive, violent path almost certain to end in their extinction, to Christianity.

“That’s a very special kind of crazy,” was the response.

She is absolutely right. In our morally upside-down world, it takes a special brand of insanity to offer up your life for someone else without any possible tangible reward.

We value the return on investment above all.

Even in our most altruistic moments, we bear in mind what our actions may net for us:
“Will this extra work earn me a raise or a promotion, or at the very least a pat on the back?”
“Will this little kindness to my spouse promote peace or merit a favor in return?”
“Will I get an allowance for doing this chore?”

What kind of person gives something of incredible value, knowing the one to whom they are giving cannot possibly pay them back…ever?

What would make those mothers – newly widowed – risk the lives of their own children for the sake of the very people who left their children fatherless?

A very special kind of crazy.

The kind of crazy that in smaller doses takes in a child in need of a home. Or provides for a massive financial need. Or donates a kidney. 

The kind of crazy that in more extravagant doses throws oneself on a grenade or in front of a bullet. Or runs into a building that is burning or collapsed because maybe there is someone they could save.

The kind of crazy that in the most perfect example of all takes the sin of the whole world on Himself and pays a penalty that He would never deserve so that you and I would never have to pay for it ourselves. It’s a debt that we could never repay and Christ knew that and chose to pay it for us anyway.

Yep, that is a very special kind of crazy.

PS – I loaned her the video “The End of the Spear” which depicts the story and the culture behind the deaths of the missionaries as well as the harvest God has brought through their wives’ ministry. Please join me in praying for greater understanding and a little bit of crazy.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Matthew 16:18

(Rodin's conception of the gates of Hell as inspired by Dante's Inferno.)

These powerful words from Jesus often bring to mind an image of a disciple, or a church, under spiritual attack - demonic forces trying unsuccessfully to destroy us through unconfessed sin, political plots, apathetic parishioners, or "wolves in sheeps' clothing." But our pastor, J. D. Greear, quoted this scripture recently (link to his blog on the topic)  and mentioned that the gates of Hell are not an offensive weapon. Think about it: Can you imagine an army lifting up the gates of the city and pursuing their enemy only to drop the gate on them? Not a very effective battle strategy! 

I could not get the image out of my mind over the next few days. The gates of Hell, like any gates, are intended to either keep someone out or to keep someone in. Or both.

Regardless of whether you picture literal gates or read these verses metaphorically, the notion is that those who are in Hell are bound there by the gates. But saying that they won't prevail against the church in this purpose is senseless, as the church isn't IN Hell. 

But if the purpose for which the gates will not prevail is to keep the church out, why would the church want IN? Why would we even try to get through those gates?

An image came to mind of all the lost souls I know. Though still living, their destiny without Christ is Hell. Many live in situations that are just a glimpse of what is to come, in constant torment from one source or another. 

Jesus has done all that is needed for their salvation - the keys to the gates that have them confined rest in His outstretched and nail-scarred hand - but someone must brave the gates of Hell to proclaim their freedom. To waken them from their slumber and show them where they are. To show them the joy of the Lord and entice them to follow us out of their prison and to take the keys to freedom that Christ offers.

Our marching orders are to storm those brazen gates and "rescue the perishing" as the old hymn proclaims. We've already been promised that we will be victorious. 

What weapons will you use today to overcome the gates of Hell?