Archive | August, 2012

Wellspring International

27 Aug

The humanitarian arm of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), Wellspring International is committed to bringing rescue, rehabilitation, and restoration to abused women and children around the world.  From projects like Agni Raksha, providing restorative surgery for victims of the brutal practice of bride burning in Bangalore, India to Scarlet Cord which offers financial assistance, counseling, and job placement services to the victims of the Netherlands’ legal prostitution industry, Wellspring is making a difference in the lives of the most forgotten individuals.  And you can too!

Take a moment to visit their Projects page and find out more about the ministries with which you can be involved.  Choose to play a part in providing education to impoverished children through Zamar Academy in Channai, India or play a role in the Food Coupon Program providing sustenance to Iraqi refugees.  Then visit MyWellspring where you can join or create a campaign to help raise both funding and awareness.  Whatever you do, commit to making a difference

Encouraging Missionaries

24 Aug

Evangelism and Missions go hand-in-hand, so this week, we’re taking a break from our standard “how-to” fare and taking a foray into a world which, for many believers, is… well, foreign: the world of a missionary.

It wasn’t until I entered this world, myself, that I began to realize just how different it is.  Even without having left the U.S., it became apparent to me that the struggles associated with full-time missions (especially faith missions in which workers must raise their own salaries through partnership with other believers) are distinctly different from those which I faced working a regular 9-5 job.  In between setting a budget that would work with a “flexible” salary and deciding which of my precious books wouldn’t be going with me, I came to the realization that there were many ways that a person could support and encourage a missionary beyond just offering prayer or contributing to their financial well-being.  Take a look at the list below for a few ideas!

  • Going to the field can be a lonely business.  One missionary reluctantly confessed that in seventeen years overseas, he and his wife had only received ten letters from their supporters.  That’s less than one a year!  Writing a letter periodically lets your missionaries know that you haven’t forgotten them and that they’re more to you than an automatic withdrawal from your checking account each month.  Missionaries want to hear about your life as much as you want to hear about theirs, so don’t hesitate to share about the major (or minor) events taking place in your home.  You may even want to send a few pictures!
  • Don’t have time for a letter?  Why not send a card?  Just a few sentences may be enough to cheer a heart that’s longing for home!  (Yes, missionaries get homesick too!)
  • Because missionaries are often in the field for long periods of time, they can begin to feel disconnected from their home churches.  A CD of a sermon or conference, a copy of the book currently being studied by the women’s group, or even a Sunday bulletin (one that indicates that they are on the church prayer list would be an excellent choice) can go a long way towards helping them feel that they are still a part.
  • Got time for a phone call or Skype?  Missionaries enjoy hearing the voices of those they’ve left behind.  Take the time to connect and let them know they’re loved.
  • Send a text.  A simple “I’m praying for you today” can make a huge difference in a missionary’s outlook!
  • Find out what they miss about home.  Sure, going to the field is a great adventure, but sometimes we all need a bit of regularity.  Many missionaries find that they have only limited access to the things that they need or want.  For example, a friend of mine from Papua New Guinea confessed that it is difficult to find decent shoes in their local marketplace.  A new pair of sneakers lasts just a few weeks before it needs to be replaced.  Why not make good use of that “Buy One, Get One Half-off” shoe sale and send a decent pair that will last for several months?
  • Don’t forget conveniences.  Another friend of mine headed to Mali was saddened to discover that there is no Starbucks there.  You can guess what I’ll be sending her for Christmas.  Something as simple as a New York Times Best Seller or a CD from your missionary’s favorite band can feel like a breath of fresh air.  And don’t forget the kids either – a card game or a stuffed animal can go a long way towards helping someone feel loved!
  • Remember that most missionaries live on a limited budget and are trying to honor both God and those who partner with them through their frugality.  This often means that they don’t have the funds to enjoy common activities like a dinner out or a night at the movies.  A surprise gift designated for such pleasures can relieve the guilt that they may feel when it comes to spending their regular ministry support on recreational activities.
  • Don’t forget your home missionaries!  While missionaries living in the U.S. don’t usually have much difficulty finding decent shoes or a cup of coffee, they are often faced with similar feelings of loneliness and disconnectedness.  Take the time to ensure that they feel connected with you and with their home church just as you would with a foreign missionary.  Your efforts will make a bigger difference than you can imagine!

You can probably come up with a few other ways to help your missionaries feel connected, so take the time to brainstorm, then make the commitment to act.  Make a difference in the life of a missionary today!

Mission Aviation Fellowship

20 Aug

Have you ever wondered what happens when a missionary has a need for food, supplies, or medical aid while serving in a remote, difficult to access area?  For many years the answer was “wait”.  Wait for those who had received the message to load the needed provisions and make the long, hard trek necessary to make the delivery.  It was a wait that could take days, weeks, or even months.  Today, however, such support is often only hours away, thanks to dedicated jungle pilots like those serving with Mission Aviation Fellowship .  Since 1945, MAF has been providing aerial support to mission organizations throughout the world.   Thanks to their skilled pilots, missionaries are able to reach hard to access locations with supplies, medical aid, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  And you can play a part!

Visit their site where you can check out the Video Gallery, sign up to receive their regular publications, or find the resources to host an MAF Sunday at your church.  Make a one year commitment to serve as an Advocate for MAF, sharing the needs and victories of these courageous jungle pilots with your community or become a Volunteer and use the skills you already have to help forward their mission right here in the U.S.!  Want to be more involved?  Check out the MAF Missionary List and select a missionary or missionary family to support through your prayers and finances!  Take some time to explore the site, then commit to making a difference today!

An Introduction to Swordplay: Basic Footwork

17 Aug

Last week, in “An Introduction to Swordplay”, we discussed the important role that Scripture memory plays in both our spiritual growth and in our ability to better share our faith with others.  This week, we’ll be concluding our short series with an introduction to basic Scripture memory techniques.  Before we begin, however, it is important to recognize that the purpose of Scripture memory is to make God’s Word more readily available to us in our time of need… not to outdo everyone else in the class.  It’s okay if you start slowly, struggle a bit along the way, or even get stuck in a rut.  The point is not how much you memorize, but simply that you do memorize.  Scripture memorization is about our willingness to allow God’s Word to penetrate our hearts and minds, not about how we stack up against others!

What follows are some techniques that work effectively for everyone from beginners to Scripture memory veterans.  Read them carefully and see which ones will work best for you.  And if you have a technique that has worked for you, but isn’t included below, please feel free to share it in the comment box at the end of the article!

Choose your verses wisely.  Start with single verses or short portions of Scripture with which you are already familiar.  Psalm 23, Exodus 20:1-17, or Matthew 6:9-13 are some excellent passages with which to begin.  Give them a quick read through – you may be surprised at how well you already know them!  Don’t like those?  Try memorizing the verses that catch your attention during your daily Bible reading or the Sunday sermon.  It’s almost always easier to memorize verses which are immediately applicable to your life.

So what if you aren’t very familiar with Scripture yet?  A quick Google search will reveal a number of excellent apps, websites, packets, and booklets available to get you started.  Here are a couple of my favorites:

You Version gives you the opportunity to organize your Bible study and Scripture memory online, on Facebook, or via your iPod, iPad, or iPhone.  You can customize your own memory plan or work with the “verse of the day”.  One of the best features of this site is its social aspect – it’s always easier to stick to your commitments when you do them in community… but more on that later.

The Navigator’s Topical Memory System is a little less “high-tech” and comes with prepared memory cards that can be slipped into your pocket, purse, or wallet for easy access.  It is designed as a basic introduction to the discipline of Scripture memory and is an excellent choice for anyone, regardless of how familiar they are with God’s Word.

Take it one bite at a time.  Work your way through verse by verse rather than in big chunks and if the verses happen to be long, line by line or from one comma to the next.  Smaller portions are almost always easier to digest!  (You can make your way to the seven course meal later.)

There is a rhythm to some portions of Scripture.  I can’t begin to recount the number of people who have recited verses to me as though they were bits of a popular rap song rather than Scripture!  And that’s just fine.  The question isn’t how we memorize, but that we have memorized.  If you find a rhythm, go with it.  Dance to it, sing to it, whatever it takes to engrain the Word of God in your heart and in your mind!

If you aren’t all that good at finding the rhythm yourself, you can rest in the knowledge that there are plenty of people who already have.  Check out the kids’ CD section at your local Christian book store or take a look at the selections available at Christianbook.com!

Sometimes writing it out helps.  Try printing your verses on three by five index cards.  Writing tends to focus our minds on what we’re learning, improving our retention. And, once you’ve written your verses down, you can take them with you!  By keeping them in your pocket, purse, briefcase, or backpack you have the ability to memorize at any place or at any time.  This is great when you’re dressing for work or school, standing in one of those endless lines at the supermarket, are sitting on terminal hold, are waiting in line for a sporting event, or have a few minutes to kill between classes!

Find a study partner.  Never underestimate the power of human encouragement!  Ask your spouse, a sibling, your best friend, your prayer partner, a classmate, or even a teacher to hold you accountable and to double check your work.  If they’re interested in memorizing Scripture too, that’s all the better!  Work together on coffee break, as you walk to classes, or on your commute to and from work or school.  You’ll be able to rejoice together in your success and support each other when you encounter bumps in the road!

Find a convenient time to work on your verses.  If you’re new to the concept of memorization, try devoting some uninterrupted time to Scripture memory on a daily basis.  Just ten dedicated minutes in the morning can make a big difference!  If you’ve done a lot of memorizing before, or as you become more comfortable with memorization, begin looking for creative places to work on your verses: stocking shelves at work, vacuuming the floors, or any kind of “spare brain time” when you don’t have to have your mind actively thinking about the task at hand.

Keep your memory work some place where you will see it.  If you can’t see it, you’ll probably forget to work on it.  Keep your verses in a visible location.  This could be a bathroom mirror, inside your cereal cabinet, taped to your computer monitor or car dashboard, or even inside of your Bible as a bookmark.  Just make certain that they’re someplace where you will see them every day!

Once you’ve picked a translation, stick to it.  Speaking as one who has done memory work in three different translations – it’s easy to get muddled.  Pick a translation that is easy for you to understand and that sounds natural when spoken out loud (the New International Version and the New Living Translation are excellent options).

That said, don’t leave out other considerations either.  While I like the New American Standard Bible for its faithfulness to the original text, many people in my part of the country only accept the King James Version as authoritative – so that’s what I memorize.  If you aren’t sure which translation is best for you, take some time to chat with your pastor, take a look at some translations online, or pay a visit to a local book store and spend some time browsing through your options.  You’re sure to find something that meets your memorization needs!

Don’t Give Up!  “I’ve never been very good at memorizing” is no excuse!  Everyone starts out in the same place.  This is one of those areas where you improve by doing.  Maybe it takes a week to memorize a verse, but the point is now you won’t forget that verse.  I used to struggle too, but now I can easily memorize three or four verses a day.  Keep at it and you’ll get better!

And don’t get frustrated when you end up in a rut.  At one time or another, everyone who has ever set their mind to memorizing Scripture has reached a point where their mind just can’t seem to absorb any more.  When this happens to you, try taking a few days off, change your memorization routine, or select a new verse or passage upon which to focus.  And remember: you aren’t the only one!

Don’t forget to review!  After all that work, it would be a shame to forget what you’ve memorized.  As we get older, our memory gets shorter.  Set aside one morning a week for review and rotate through the passages you’ve memorized.  This will keep all of your work fresh in your mind.

Once again, don’t get ahead of yourself and most of all, don’t forget why you’re doing this!  God doesn’t tell us to do anything of which we are incapable and He has promised that we can do all things through Him (Philippians 4:13).  Keep your focus and you’ll find that the blessings of Scripture memory work are beyond anything you could have imagined!

Forgetting the Past

15 Aug

Read: Philippians 3:3-14

“Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past.  Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.” – Isaiah 43:18-19

The call was unfair.  You could see it in his eyes as he approached the referee.  It was the middle of the 2012 London Olympics men’s beach volleyball qualifiers and a point had just been scored against his partner and himself… an over-the-net block in which the competition had touched the ball before his team had been given the opportunity to defend.  According to the rules, the point should have belonged to him, but the ref disagreed.  The score stood.  Nodding his head, he returned to the court, his composure calm and controlled.  The ball was served, his partner set, and he slammed it over the net and evened the score.  His decision to focus on the present instead of the past had made the difference between success and failure.

I had to admit that my own performance in similar circumstances has not always been so stellar.  Frustrated by the unfairness of the circumstances in which I find myself, I often focus more on what is past than upon what lies ahead.  The result is always the same: instead of moving forward to glory, I end up tangled in a mess of further failure.

The Apostle Paul was aware of this and, in the book of Philippians, reminds the young church that whatever has gone before (good or evil) is past – and should be left in the past.  God had something new planned for Israel and He has something new planned for us as well.  Our duty is to keep our heads in the game.

Thought for the Day:  Am I looking towards the future with expectation or am I allowing prior failures to distract me from God’s plan?

Mastermedia

13 Aug

You don’t have to look far to realize that media is influential.  Television, movies, and music present us with unique ways to share our world view.  Through these avenues, men and women of all creeds and perspectives are able to ensure that their views are granted the widest possible audience.  And those views which are shared the most prominently often have the greatest influence on the lives and thinking of those who consume the media through which they’re shared.

That is why Mastermedia has committed to being a positive influence in the lives of those who otherwise might remain unreached by the truth of the Gospel: today’s media influencers.  Through the distribution of literature and one-on-one meetings, they are making a difference in the lives of those who have the some of the most visible effects upon our culture.  From actors and actresses to newscasters and rappers, people are hearing the Gospel and it is changing lives.

Like any ministry, their outreach to those in the entertainment industry would not be possible if not for the involvement of the rest of the body of Christ.  While you may not be able to go to Hollywood and witness on a movie set, you can still make a difference right where you are and that difference begins with a commitment to pray.  Download a copy of the Media Leader Prayer Calendar or check it out online.  Not sure what to pray?  Check out Sixteen Redemptive Prayers for Hollywood for some ideas.  Then, sign up for the Mediator newsletter and get regular updates on the effects that those prayers are having!  Want to be more involved?  Why not start planning an Oscar Prayer Party to help share the need with others?  You can even contact Mastermedia for information and resources that will help you better dialogue with the media influencers in your own “neck of the woods”.  Media makes a difference.  You can too.

An Introduction to Swordplay

10 Aug

In Ephesians 6:17, Apostle Paul compares the Word of God to a sword… and no wonder!  Few tools are as useful to the follower of Christ as the Scriptures through which God reveals Himself to us.  The words of the Bible comfort us in times of distress and govern our behavior during trials.  They echo our joy and our praise and, on some occasions, even our anger and frustration.  No less important is the power that they have to influence the hearts of others as we share the Gospel message.

Sadly, while many of us spent our childhood faithfully committing these words to memory, the habit lapsed long ago.  Caught up in memorizing the periodic table and the parsing of French verbs, we set our Sunday School verses aside, waiting for a less hectic time in which to pick them up again.  I distinctly remember the year in which I did just that.  The materials for the Scripture memory club at which (ironically) I was a leader, had been rewritten and in order to familiarize myself with the new program, I decided that I would work through the new books alongside my girls.  It wasn’t long before I was back in the swing of things and you can imagine my surprise when at the end of the year I discovered that I had memorized nearly 250 new Scripture verses!

What most impressed me during this time, however, was the number of commands I found that dealt not just with reading God’s Word, but with remembering it!  (Psalm 1:2; 86:11; 119: 9, 11, 23, 48, 78, 105… Just to name a few!)  I was particularly struck by Deuteronomy 6, verses 6-9:

 “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Being the type of person who jumps in feet first without looking, I decided to act upon the command by attempting to memorize the entire Bible.  (After all, if a little is good, a lot is better.  Right?)  While several of the people I told about this thought that I had lost my mind (and possibly for good reason), others provided some great encouragement.  One friend even told me of a pastor he knew who had gone blind, but wanted to continue preaching.  Purchasing a copy of the Bible on tape, he worked diligently until he had, indeed, memorized all of it!

I decided to start with the book of Romans since I already knew a good portion of it by heart (best to start off easy) and had previously been able to use those portions to share the Gospel message.  I determined that I would work through the epistle one chapter at a time and that I wouldn’t be satisfied until I could recite each verse word-for-word.

Over the summer I was able to memorize the first three chapters and was greatly surprised by the outcome.  I reported to a friend of mine that I could have dealt with nearly every question I’ve ever been asked about my faith with just that handful of verses!

The truly impressive part, however, was what was happening to me as a result of the memorization.  While I regularly took time to read my Bible, I discovered that I had not actually been meditating upon what it said.  The endless repetition of the same phrases over and over that was required in order to commit the verses to memory forced me to think upon each passage in much greater depth than I would have otherwise.  I was surprised at how much my understanding of God’s Word grew with just the fifteen minutes a day that I spent committing it to memory.

So what is an article on Scripture memory doing on a page about evangelism?  To begin with, God doesn’t limit our opportunities to share the Gospel to just those times when we have a copy of the Bible nearby.  Our ability to quote Scripture (in its appropriate context) can make the difference between effective sharing and ineffective babbling.

Secondly, it is easier to obey the command in 2 Peter 3:15, to always be ready to give an answer for our faith, when we know where to find that answer.  You may not be great with references, but I can guarantee that knowing enough to find that reference in a concordance will really boost your own confidence when it comes to sharing your faith.  And those who are confident, share the message of God’s Saving Grace more frequently than those who are not!

Everyone has the ability to commit at least a little bit of Scripture to memory and that little bit can make a big difference!  Next week, we’ll be taking a look at some great techniques to help you get started.  Meanwhile, feel free to share your own experiences in the comment box below.  We’d love to hear about your own experiences with Scripture memory and about the effect that it has had in your own life or in the lives of those around you!

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