Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Post from the Front

My good friend Dick Rutgers is a man after God's own heart. He has been serving the Lord in Guatemala for the last ten years by providing wheelchairs, walkers, and other devices for the disabled of that needy nation. By mutual consent, he sometimes copies my blog into his and I am taking this opportunity to do the same with his.

In this entry, he shares the death of one of his children and remembers five others who have left this life in the last year. As you read his words, pray for Dick and the children he serves.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

This Morning I received a phone call that I had been anticipating for nearly a year now. Milton the 4 year old boy who I met about 16 months ago had died. The doctor at the clinic that I frequently visit down near the coast had brought Milton to my attention at that time.

Here is part of what I entered into my Journal on May 14 2008.

Soon we were at the first home. The father greeted us at the gate. Through the open gate we could see 2 children sitting in a hammock and a mother that was holding a child that appeared to be starving. At first the father seemed a bit apprehensive about letting us in but after a while he motioned for us to follow him to the house. As we visited we were told that the family had taken 3 year old Milton to doctors shortly after he was born but they had been told that there was nothing much that could be done for him. The father told us that a few other doctors looked at him as well but as soon as any money that the family had was used up the doctors would no longer help them. Milton’s father told us that he was giving up and later confided in us that he wished that his son were dead so that the family could go on with their lives. He explained that they had no money for a wheelchair and some one had to always be holding Milton. He asked if we knew of any orphanages that would take his child because he was at the end of his rope. As we talked I realized why this father had such bitterness in his hart. He told us that neighbors and friends were continually reminding him and his wife that it was their fault that they had a child like this. They were continually being told that Milton was a curse from God because they had done some great sin. I handed Milton back to his mother and walked over to the father and put my hand on his shoulder. I had been studding Milton as I was holding him and was convinced that Milton had cerebral palsy. With the help of Carlos interpreting I explained to the parents that I had been watching Milton’s eyes and he had been taking everything in. Yes it was true that Milton had many physical limitations but he was very bright. I also told them about Stephen who is back in the States and about several of the kids at the orphanage who have CP. I told them about what they were able to do and about what a blessing they were to all of us who knew them. I then told Milton’s parents that some times God puts things into our lives for reasons that we do not fully understand, but that the reason that Milton had CP was not a result of something terrible that they had done but caused by a lack of oxygen at birth. When I said that I could feel father let out a sigh of relief and the stern look on his face disappeared as his eyes filled up with tears. Mother who had been staring at the ground looked up and said “That is exactly what happened!” She went on to tell us that Milton had indeed suffered oxygen starvation at birth but she had never been told by any one that the lack of oxygen was the likely cause of Milton’s problems. Both parents looked like the weight of the world had been lifted off from their shoulders.

Not long after that we had Milton admitted into the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro. Every thing possible was done for Milton but his condition was so bad that after a few months it was agreed upon by all of us that Milton would be better off whit a family (including the father) who now realized that this child was not a curse but a gift from God. Even though most of us didn’t think that Milton would last more than a few weeks he proved us wrong. This was due in part to a generous sponsor who made it possible for us to bring in food and medication on a monthly bases but an even larger factor in what kept Milton alive was that he was now surrounded in love. Now whenever I stopped in to visit the entire family welcomed me. On numerous occasions I would be told that Milton was not at home because one of the other children had taken him for a walk in the wheelchair that we had provided. On the rare occasions that we did find him at home he was always in the arms of some one that loved him. This included his Father. Yesterday Milton went home to the arms of his heavenly father.

Milton will be missed by all of us.

Here are five more kids that I have had the privilege of knowing that have died within the past year.





Ana Maribel

It never gets any easier to loose any of them but I count it a privilege to have known them and I try to remember that,

"Death is not extinguishing the light from the Christian;

it is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come."


Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wealthy and Unaware

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." 

– Jesus (Matthew 19:23-24)

DSCF1146 During the last 20 years of ministry I have often struggled with both the American church and my own heart. What is it that makes it so difficult for us to surrender everything we have in order to follow Jesus? What is it that makes it so difficult for us to step out in faith, trust God, and touch a dying world? I think I have finally found the answer.

During our international travels we have frequently laughed at the perceptions of the locals we encounter. In many parts of the world they assume that if you are an American you are wealthy. Wanda and I have often looked at each other and laughed over this perception because we know our economic situation. A ministry salary + 10 kids = (Well, you do the math). Then we shake our heads, explain that we don’t have the money to purchase the goods they are selling, and walk away.

If I were to take a poll of the typical church-goer I am sure that very few would see themselves as wealthy. Most would label themselves as low, low-middle, or middle income because they judge themselves by what they see on a daily basis. They own a home, but it is not as big as they would like. They own a car, but it is not as new as they would like. They live on a tight budget and not nearly as lavishly as others they live near or with whom they work or go to school. Of course they (and I) are not rich. At least we assume that we are not.

However, when you stop and analyze our standards of living, we are. In fact, even if you take a low income family existing solely on public assistance their income and standard of living far exceeds the typical citizen of our world. In fact, it would place them in the upper 15% of our planet. So where does that place the rest of us?

I would venture that each of us awoke this morning and placed our feet on a floor, not dirt. And not only was it a floor, but it had a covering such as carpet, tile, or hardwood. We walked across that floor to a bathroom which had indoor plumbing carrying water that was safe to drink. We used a toilet that offered sanitary disposal of our waste with minimal effort. We put on clean clothes (unless you are a college student who has waited too long to do your laundry). And we ate at least a couple of meals today. If we had woken up sick this morning, we would have had access to a doctor, treatment, and medicine, even if we were uninsured. And as you read these words you are doing so through a computer through which you have access to information and knowledge for which much of the world is starving.

household-possessionsBut in addition to all that, we have STUFF! We have our televisions, computer, games, vehicles, clothing, toys, books, MP3 players, etc. that fill up our homes and storage. In fact, we regularly accumulate so much STUFF that we have to rent storage space to place it in or host yard sales to get rid of our STUFF to make room for more STUFF!

And yet, we stand in the midst of our houses or apartments surrounded by all of our STUFF and fail to realize that we are wealthy. And all of that STUFF is what makes it so hard to follow Jesus with abandon. We convince ourselves that we are not rich, that we need all of this STUFF, and Jesus would never ask us to give it all up. And because we are unwilling to give it all up, we seldom give any of it up.

In Revelation 3:17-18 Jesus gives the following message to the church in Laodicea:

You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

At first glance, it is tempting to see the Laodiceans as different from the church of the US in 2009. They seemed to think they were rich and have everything they needed while we seem to be unaware of our own wealth. But we are actually their twins. Like them, we think that we have everything we need in the STUFF that surrounds us. But, in reality, the church is “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” And God begs us to exchange our STUFF for real wealth.

And therein lies the difficulty. We have to let go of the STUFF in order to gain the life and the wealth to which God call all believers. And the more we have, the harder it is to let go and follow. And, because the typical American believer clings so tightly to these possessions, we are ineffective at touching the needs of the world around us. Instead of reflecting the priorities of Jesus, we mirror the culture around us.

Meanwhile, people are waiting to catch a glimpse of the real Jesus in us. And while they wait, they are dying.

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of STUFF.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Quotes That Challenge, Inspire, and Trouble

Following is a few of the quotes that God has been using to challenge, inspire, and trouble me. Perhaps they will do the same for you.

CRW_1903.CRWWhy do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” and not do what I say? – Jesus (Luke 6:46)

Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now. – Saint Teresa of Avila

We have shrunk Jesus to the size where He can save our soul but now don’t believe that He can change the world. – Anonymous

The true gospel is a call to self-denial. It is not a call to self fulfillment. – John MacArthur

CRW_1918.CRW The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. – Frederick Buechner

What if there are children who will suffer somehow because I failed to obey God? What if my cowardice costs even on child somewhere in the world his or her life? – Richard Stearns

It’s not what you believe that counts; it’s what you believe enough to do. – Gary Gulbranson

We can be the generation that no longer accepts that an accident of latitude determines whether a child lives or dies---but will we be that generation? – Bono

CRW_1937.CRW And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward. – Jesus (Matthew 10:42)

Christianity is flourishing wonderfully among the poor and persecuted while it atrophies among the rich and secure. – Philip Jenkins

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. – Psalm 82:3-4

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. – Martin Luther King Jr.

CRW_1910.CRW “Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it.” -- “Well, why don’t you ask Him?” -- “Because I am afraid He would ask me the same question.” – Anonymous

Pray, but when you pray, move to your feet. – African Proverb

If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered. – Proverbs 21:13

How different our standard is from Christ’s. We ask how much a man gives. He asks how much he keeps. – Andrew Murray

CRW_1923.CRWI love the recklessness of faith. First you leap, and then you grow wings. – William Sloane Coffin

I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. – Mohandas Gandhi

If you think you are too small to make a difference, try spending the night in a closed room with a mosquito. – African Proverb

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead

Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world. – Joel Barker

If these quotes challenge, inspire, and trouble you please pick up and read the book The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns.