The Fifth Gospel

Salt and light… a light not hidden… a salt uncompromising…an understandable gospel for those who won’t read the the written Gospels.

Please, allow me to start by telling you a story.

Two nights ago in Arua, Uganda I was sitting with a new friend, Sheikh ***** **** Muhammad (for his protection we will refer to him simply as “Muhammad”). Muhammad was, a Sheikh (an authorized teacher of Islam) and has a wife and 15 children. His first-born is a Sheikh as well. In fact, his father, grandfather and so on for 5 generations have been Sheikhs.

Growing up he went to an Islamic school and eventually studied in a Shiite University in Kampala. Later he moved to Saudi Arabia where he taught as a Professor in the Sunni University for 17 years. After returning home, Muhammad, being a Sheikh, continued teaching Islam in his homeland of Uganda and developed quite a following. Until recently, that is. You see, Muhammad is now a Christian. He told me that one day, as he was out walking, a forum caught his attention. Christian missionary was explaining the difference between the Jesus of the Bible and the Jesus of the Koran. Muhammad heard and instinctively knew some of it for true. Inside his heart he yearned for the truth.

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“Josh” (the missionary) had said that Jesus was the Truth and that the Truth would set him free. That same day Muhammad secretly gave his life to Christ. Yet for two years, Muhammad lived publicly as a Sheikh who privately didn’t believe in what he taught. As I understood it, he finally felt that he couldn’t live that life anymore; it was hypocrisy. Only four days ago, he came out as a Christian. He told me that he could no longer put his light under a cover. “No.” he affirmed, “I must not be ashamed; no compromise.” Since publicly proclaiming Christ, all of his disciples have accepted the Lord which makes sixty in all, of all ages and races and all being former Muslims.

The day after his public proclamation, a car pulled up in front of a his home and the driver yelled, “Muhammad quick come here!” As he walked out the door, he was abducted. His mouth was taped and he was beaten and taken to a deserted place outside of the city and left for dead. “As I laid there I prayed, ‘Jesus You are still king.'” He told me. “And, as I was crying and praying, a woman came to me from out of nowhere. A woman came to me…Where did she some from? Where was she going? A woman came to me and she saved my life.” This woman took Muhammad to a hospital in Arua where he received medical treatment and was released.

This brings me to the day I met him. Sid (a YWAM buddy) said he wanted to take me to meet a guy he knew who had just been released from the hospital. We picked him up, took him to Sid’s house, made him food and encouraged him. He told us about how he would soon be returning to his home. Because, as he shared, “The time has come and there is a change in my City. They are ready for Christ.” He continued, “When I come back, many will see and not be afraid. Jesus will come with me…”

The former Sheikh had become uncompromising salt and light.

To better clarify for you what the Lord has been speaking to me over these past five weeks in Arua, Uganda, I have to tell you another story of another man, who I highly respect, of his pursuit of the Lord and for the way it transformed his family. It is a story of the change he made from being a passive Christian to a burning one.

Shane has set himself on fire with a passionate relationship with Jesus through His word, actions and prayer.

As he spoke with me he told me about a change that had occurred. Shane said, “I was living a compromised Christianity.” He shared how his family went to church every Sunday, how they invested time and money in the institution and were good people by American standards. But, something was missing. He had no burning desire for the Lord, and neither did his family. He made a conscientious decision to submit his whole life to the Lord and root out every compromise in his life and heart and to live a real gospel. He prioritized and completely reconstructed his daily life, right down to avoiding the TV shows he usually watched with his wife and kids. It didn’t happen overnight, but his family soon followed his example, seeing the Truth evident in his life. Him being that fifth gospel was more effective than a plethora of sermons on Sunday morning.

His story touched me. I met his family and I prayed my girls would grow to be as Godly as his children are, burning with love for Jesus and the world. I heard what people said about him and his family, that he was a man on on fire for Christ, that he was a man who lived the fifth gospel. As my wife and I visited with Shane and his family and they told us their story about how the power of Christ transformed a family when the the father and husband relentlessly strove to know Christ deeper and be more like Him, I was convicted and inspired.

Finally and briefly, I’ll tell you about a man whom I love dearly. He is like a second father to me and my children call him “Grandpa Dan.” His name is, of course, Dan. He is a salt spreader. I could write a book about what he means to me and all he has done to shape me, but I will save that perhaps for a later blog. Just know, he is a walking gospel.

This brings me to the point of writing this post. As I’ve been praying, and I’ve been praying a lot since I’ve been in Africa, the Lord is giving me direction, or vision, or perhaps a mission. I believe that the Lord is guiding me, guiding all of us in fact, to be the Fifth Gospel. This is nothing new but I’m just now getting a hold of it, or maybe he’s just giving me revelation in a way that I can understand. With some luck, the lesson He is teaching me can become revelation to others as well.

Here in Africa there are a lot of people who either can’t read or would never read the Bible: Muslims, witches, Hindus and even ex-pats. But everyone watches, observes, listens, weighs. What has he gained? they wonder. What has he given up? they ask themselves. Why is he here? Where has he come from? Does he live what he say he believes? Is this Christian like the Christ I heard about?

I see the story I’m about to share repeated in my own life. But where my story takes place in a refugee camp in Uganda, the following story takes place in Tanzania.

A group from my church in Wyoming, Family Life Church, went to Tanzania to fix wells and drill some new ones. When they arrived in one village they saw that a well which they had previously drilled was broken and in need of repair. Throughout the several days it took to repair the well, it seemed as though the the village has assigned a man to supervise them, if that’s what you could call it. As the team worked fixing the motor, putting up protection for the solar panels and making other repairs, they would stop from time to time and try engaging this man in conversation. He made no reply but instead just stood stoically by watching their every move. The man was part of the village group of elders with whom the US team had been working with for years. Even after drilling and putting in the well years ago and promising to stay in touch and help in whatever way they could, the elders of the village seemed skeptical and suspicious. However, after days of labor to repair their broken well as well as teaching locals how to keep it running and repair it themselves, the “supervisor” finally spoke, saying something rather astounding. He said, “Now I know that you are true and you are a man of your word. Now I can trust what you say.”

This has great implications for the gospel. It shows that the gospel message is often best received from men and women who are living the Gospel, speaking Gospel, and demonstrating the Gospel. They have salted the food; they have erected a lantern on a hill; they have not compromised or taken the easy way out. Instead, they conquered all obstacles to prove themselves true to their word which in turn gave validity to Christ.

 

This is what the Lord is teaching me about: embodying Jesus, being the salt, shining light in the darkest places and bearing peace and calm even when it’s hard. Even when I don’t get what I want, or when I’m afraid, or even when I feel like I am taking on a very large burden, it is for His sake.

The Word commands us to take up our cross daily and to do all things for the glory of God. This is my mission: to be light and salt; to be a Christ bearer, the fifth Gospel account; always ready to give the reason for the hope that I have in Christ that he may gain glory and that people may be saved. Just something on my heart. Thanks for reading and may God bless you.

Thoughts on the cost

Last week the girls and I were doing our morning prayers and intercession when Talai prayed, “Dear heavenly Father, when we go to Uganda, please protect me, and please help me to endure if I become an orphan. No matter what, help me never to deny You, but always follow You faithfully.”

Hadassah prayed a similar prayer ending with “Jesus please help me to follow you no matter what and if I have to go to an orphanage, let it be one where they treat the children nicely.”

Whoa! Right? What kind of nine-year-old or six-year-old prays that in complete johnny-automatic-girl-praying-800pxsincerity? So came my moment to respond and I sat silent for a while contemplating what to say. Should I assure them that God would not allow Sal or I to die or that they would never be orphans? As a mother wanting to quench their fears that was my temptation, but I couldn’t honestly give them any assurances and I would not have them disillusioned with God because I put false promises in His mouth that He did not keep. How would you respond?

 

I fear some will misunderstand what I am about to say. I love my children more than life, and I mean that in the most sincere way possible. I have sacrificed a career, much of my education and more to stay at home and spend time with them, watch them grow and give them an exquisite education. This was completely contrary to my plans before becoming a mother, but I count it all a joy now and would not have it any other way. However, my love for them is ashes compared to the extravagant love their heavenly Father has for them. For this reason, the best and most loving thing I can do for them is to be obedient to God and trust Him with their lives.

That said, please be gracious as you read my response if I do not communicate as clearly as I should.

Firstly in response, I hugged all three of my precious darlings because even though Mila did not voice such fears I’m sure she wrestles with her own. I told them that God has a plan for each of our lives, for theirs and my own. If we are walking in His will nothing and no one can kill us until we have completed God’s intended plan. Just as God protected David while King Saul hunted him through the wilderness and how He protected Jesus when those of His own town tried to throw Him off of a cliff, so too will God protect us while we still have His orders to carry out on earth, orders that probably include being around to raise them.

However, that didn’t mean that God would not allow them to be orphaned. I told them that I did not think that Sal or I’s deaths were a part of God’s plan any time soon. God has promised much to us that we have yet to see manifested and given us much instruction that we’ve yet to accomplish. But we all need to be ready to give everything, even our lives for God’s Kingdom if it so requires. However, the Bible teaches that the angels who watch over children are ever before the face of God, and I assured the girls that, no matter what, God would watch over and protect them. I also told them they shouldn’t ever end up in an orphanage because they would live with family or friends should anything ever happen to Sal and I. And finally I encouraged and fortified them to never forsake Jesus for any reason. As long as we hold fast to Christ, we will see each other again.

reverse silloutte crossI know this response may sound radical to the Westerner, including many Western Christians. However, I recently heard Michael Ramsden speak on this topic and he said something that merits repeating; As Western Christians, we live in a time that is unique. The peace and prosperity that the Western church enjoys is peculiar not only historically, but also globally in our present world. The normality for Christians, that which has been typical since the day Jesus died, is a life of suffering and/or persecution, but even so, a life of joy and peace, of generosity and beauty.

Hebrews 11 gives us a goose-bump raising account of our Christian legacy:

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword;whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again.” (v. 32-35a)

How much would we love to see these kinds of miracles in our churches and in our lives? How many of us have inquired of God why these things tarry? Perhaps the key can be found in the very next words:

“There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins,destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.” (v.35b-38)

This part of our Christian legacy continues today as many endure such conditions for the sake of Christ. If you don’t believe that, you should go on a mission trip.

I see a lot of the Western world’s desire for comfort and security within the heart of the Western church and even within my own heart. Yet how much of the security that we enjoy is an illusion? One has only to turn on the television to hear of wars and rumors of wars, of division and schemings. Ramsden also said that the type of persecution that we see in places like the 10/40 window is “only ever one generation away.” I truly believe that.

But even were peace not so fragile, what would I be should I not follow the call of God on my life? No one wants to be Jonah. No one wants to believe themselves a coward, and that is definitely not how God created us to be. But how do we overcome fear when called to a place where the odds are stacked dangerously against us?knightingoldenarmor-2400px

The beautiful simplicity of the trust and faith my daughters have in their heavenly Father was deeply convicting for me. It was unbridled by the the reins of doubt and burdens of past experience that so many of us grown-ups haul around with us. It is no wonder that Jesus taught that we must become as children to enter the Kingdom of God!

I recently had a pastor ask me bluntly, “So what is the cost (of following God’s call)?” It was difficult for me to give an answer. Anything Sal or I have “given up” thus far seems quite unimportant and superficial and hardly meriting the title “cost.” Anything that may arise in the future remains hypothetical. So I suppose the costs we’re counting as we say “yes” to God are largely control, security and pride. To be willing to be utterly out-of-control of of our situation even when physical danger may be present, to be willing to face danger head-on without the security of a safety net and pride in that we may not always have the answers or solutions, and of course to look like complete fools in the eyes of the world.

Yet by God’s grace, we shall say “yes,” agreeing to whatever costs and willing to trust Him with everything. Hopefully we may in some way prove ourselves worthy of our amazing daughters who could school us on graciously surrendering to God’s will and perhaps take one step closer to being worthy dwelling places of Christ Jesus.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article, and may God bountifully bless you and yours.