I am primarily an evangelist and teacher who travels around the world in apostolic ministry as God leads and enables me. In addition to preaching and teaching the Bible, I mentor our key partners to be more strategic and impactful for the Gospel in their countries and cultures, just as they continue to mentor me. I am relationally focused rather than program or project focused in ministry relationships and partnerships.
“But you, O God…are the helper of the fatherless.”
Pastor Nima Tshering and some
of the first children of Champa Choeling.
Yesterday you received the first installment on my report about Pastor Nima Tshering and the children of Champa Choeling, or “Place of Love.” There was so much to report about this unique home for needy Tibetan children, that I had to send it in two segments.
As I shared in that first report, the Tibetan people are the most resistant and least responsive people on earth to the Gospel. That’s why, according to the best estimates of missiologists, there are less than several hundred known Tibetan Christians in the entire world!
But that is not because foreign missionaries have not faithfully tried to reach Tibetans. It is because they have their own “living god” in the person of the Dalai Lama. To them, he is their Christ-substitute. To us, he is antichrist. So because of their faith in the Dalai Lama as their “god incarnate,” most Tibetans have virtually been impervious to Christian evangelism. That is especially the case with the adult Tibetans who have lived their whole lives in that spiritual darkness.
It was for that reason that Pala Tshering, and his wife, Amala, shifted their emphasis from adults to children. Even though Pala had been a Buddhist monk himself for 28 years, his influence on fellow monks was minimum. So God directed his heart to the needy Tibetan children.
As a result of Pala and Amala adopting and rearing the children in a loving Christian atmosphere, most of them accepted Christ as their Savior while they were young or in their teens. They were then nurtured and mentored in their faith through daily devotions and weekly church services led by Pala. And it was not in any way “foreign” in language or culture. Everything was totally Tibetan in language, music, instruments and dress. It remains so to this day.
REACHING TIBETANS THROUGH CHILDREN
A number of the known Tibetan Christians in the world are graduates of Champa Choeling. This approach of ministering to children once again proved the truth of the verse above that says: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
By God’s sovereign grace, I first met Pala and Amala in Kathmandu nearly 3 decades ago. At that time, they were living in very crowded conditions in a small rented second floor apartment. There was little place for the children to live – much less study and play.
We quickly saw the need for a house of their own with more yard space. We were soon able to purchase a home through the generous gifts of our partners. A second house beside it was later purchased in order to expand their ministry.
The dedication of the first house.
The dedication of the second house, with more room for the Tsherings
and for their ever-growing number of adopted children.
A TIBETAN CHURCH
The new house also served as the weekly meeting place for their indigenous Tibetan Church – which was one of its kind in the world. It is where the children were discipled and mentored in the Christian faith as they sat under the wise teaching and preaching of Pala every week, supplemented by his son, Yacob, also an ordained minister.
The Champa Choeling Choir often sang and danced at special cultural events.
It has been my joy to preach many times across the years
at the Champa Choeling Church - with Yacob as my translator.
Pala with some of his young congregation.
This unique church was the place where their "Champa Choeling Choir" sang songs that Pala wrote in the Tibetan language, accompanied by traditional instruments. Since our own ministry had begun through the formation of a youth musical group in 1968 known as "The New Directions", we were especially drawn to this unique indigenous musical ministry.
Across the years we helped them produce several cassettes of their music. Additionally, we assisted in the printing of Pala’s “Good Shepherd” tract based on John 10, his life story titled “A Tibetan Monk’s Story, and in the production of Solar Digital Players with Pala reading Scriptures in his native language.
We rejoice that we were able to help Champa Choeling record ethnic Christian
music written by Pala for distribution through audio cassettes and through
the Solar Digital Bible. Their music continues to be very popular among
Tibetan Refugees throughout Nepal and India.
THE BIBLE IN THE HEART LANGUAGE OF THE TIBETAN PEOPLE
During this same time while they were taking in needy children, Pala was also translating the Scriptures into the heart language of the Tibetan people. He spent 15 years doing this translation.
Sadly, that translation by the Bible Society has still not been printed for distribution. So, fearing that Pala would never live to see his life’s work completed in printed form, we helped him do an oral translation for distribution through Solar Digital Players. These players have become great witnessing tools to Tibetans who are oral learners in Nepal, India and America.
Yacob recorded Pala as he read his Bible translation for the Solar Players.
Pala and Amala listening to Bible portions from
the Old and New Testaments, recorded by Pala
for the Solar Players.
Hundreds of these Solar Players have now been distributed
among Tibetan Refugees in Nepal, India and America,
made possible by the giving of our American partners.
Yacob sowing God's written and oral word among Tibetan Refugees in Nepal.
CHAMPA CHOELING FAMILY ALBUM…
A dual cab pickup truck, purchased for Champa Choeling
by a ministry partner.
The Nima Tshering Family
CHAMPA CHOELING KIDS THEN AND NOW...
(Left) Dolma Chunkie, now studying for her Bachelors in Social Work, plans
to work with an NGO; (Right) Pemba Tshering now lives and works in Switzerland.
Patt and I are pictured with a young Jingmy Tsewang, whom we have personally
supported throughout his years at Champa Choeling. Jingmy, pictured at right,
has graduated, works in an office in Kathmandu, and will soon be sent by his
company to work in the Gulf States.
From Left to right: Sharon Lhomi now works as a teacher; Nima Tshering farms
with his family in Gorkha; and Mingmar works in Malaysia as a cook.
Dawa Tenzing works as a clinic receptionist; Kipa Lama is studying and teaching
in Kathmandu; and Tsultrim Lhamo is married and lives in Pokhara, Nepal.
Magdalene Lama and Tsechu Dolma are teachers, while Sonam Tshering works
as a hotel manager in Kathmandu.
Tshering Lhadon owns a tourist business in Pokhara; Henna Lama is a teacher;
and Yanchen Dolkar is a happily married homemaker.
Angmo is a teacher; Lhakpa works at a sweater business in Shillong;
and Tsetan Dolma is married and living in Nepal.
Dawa Lamo, playing the Tibetan instrument "Damia",
is married and operates a small hotel with her husband
in Gorkha Village. At right, Sonam Yenkie works as a
nurse and now lives in England with her husband.
Dolma Chunkie as a child, and today at Champa Choeling,
hopes to work with an NGO in the future.
Lobsang Choden as a young girl at Champa Choeling,
now works as a nurse in Mangalore.
Sonam Tshering, as a small boy at left,
works as a hotel manager in Boudha.
A young Tshering Dolma, pictured left,
is now happily married and lives in Canada.
Tshering Sangmo, pictured left as a child at Champa Choeling,
now works as a teacher in Gurkha.
(Left) Mingmar works as a cook in Malaysia;
(Right) Phurba Tashi, pictured with Yacob, has his own
office in Boudha for students preparing to study abroad.
Tenth Grade Students.
Linda Tshering is a renown teacher, and has
motivated and mentored many of the girls
of Champa Choeling to become teachers.
Several of the many Champa Choeling graduates who are teachers today.
POSTSCRIPT ON PALA…
Pala at his 100th birthday celebration.
As our regular readers know, Pala recently celebrated his historic “100th Birthday,” which we featured in a special report (please click here to review). He lived a little over 6 months after that century mark before God called him home.
RESURRECTION OR REINCARNATION?
Since Patt and I were not able to attend Pala’s funeral, a visit to his grave was a high priority on our last trip to Nepal. After a long, 3-hour hard ride from Kathmandu over mountainous roads – and non roads, we finally arrived at the burial site. Frankly, we needed donkeys or yaks to reach the site!
The reason this remote site was chosen is because Nepal is a majority Hindu and Buddhist country. They cremate their dead and spread the ashes on the holy river. So due to the Hindu and Buddhist significance of this as an essential part of the reincarnation process, Christians in Nepal do not cremate – but bury.
Christians believe in resurrection – not reincarnation. However, the Hindus and Buddhists think this practice of burying a dead body is a defilement and contamination of their land. So no one will allow you to bury on their land! This has been one of the great problems for decades in Nepal as the Church has grown exponentially. The Christians have to search for remote places to secretly bury their dead.
There was no available place in the whole Kathmandu Valley where Pala could be buried. So Pastor Hanok led the search and finally found this remote property over 3 hours drive from Kathmandu. It was in a small green valley between two steep hillsides. It was amazing to us as we walked there, after going as far as the truck would take us, that they were able to carry Pala's wooden coffin to this remote site! Since Pala had always loved the 23rd Psalm, God gave him his wish to be buried in a “green valley!”
It was with both joy and sadness that we trekked to where Pala had been buried several months earlier. And since every visit to Champa Choeling was highlighted with the traditional Tibetan “Shawl of Honor” from Pala, it was a privilege to place them on his grave along with flowers, and to have a time of prayer and praise for a unique life well lived for the Lord Jesus!
One thing for sure, Pala has never been more alive! Not because of some illusory reincarnation into another life form – but through the resurrection of the Lord Jesus! At death, Pala did not “change forms” – he was transformed!
I have included some of the pictures I took with my dear friend and partner, Pala, across the decades, that capture the essence of his spiritual life in Christ. Also are pictures of his ever-faithful wife, Amala, who was always at his side…
A FARWELL PARTY WITH THE CHILDREN…
As is our custom, we have a party with the children in our various homes when we visit them. Sometimes it is pizza…sometimes it is KFC…sometimes it is burgers…sometimes it is goat – whatever is available! This time it was hot and spicy KFC, Tibetan moo-moos, Black Forest cake and ice cream – a very special treat for the kids.
Doing this has given me the reputation of the “Party Uncle!” But since God is all about an eternal party in heaven, I love to reflect that on earth with His children everywhere I can. That’s why I don’t want to ever grow up! Most grown-ups don’t have near as much fun as I do! Serving Him through serving people is a “Kingdom Adventure!”
Before leaving Kathmandu, we had a BIG party for the kids at Champa Choeling – knowing that Pala was enjoying a much greater party in heaven! So come enjoy the party – with a distinctly Tibetan-flavor!
The kids made traditional moo-moos, a unique Tibetan food - to Tibetans what
potato chips or hot dogs would be to Americans. The closest comparison is
a dumpling filled with yak meat!
The kids chose KFC, as two new stores have recently opened in Kathmandu.
We ordered chicken for everyone - and you don't know "hot and spicy" until
you experience KFC Nepali style!
Black Forest Cake and ice cream are a part of mission trips
I don't tell everyone about!
Before leaving, we presented each of the children with a new shirt and a copy
of my new book, "Life Steps," for young Christians.
Jingmy Lundup & Acha Pema Dechenla
These are our Tibetan Names given us by Pala. Just like God will give each of us an appropriate “new name” in heaven (Rev. 2:17; 3:12), Pala gave Patt and me Tibetan Names that he felt were symbolic of our lives. My name, Jingmy means “fear not.” Lundup means “successful accomplisher.” Patt’s name means: Acha, for “sister,” Pema means “beautiful flower,” and Dechen means “one who brings peace.” What an honor and responsibility to try and live out the implications of those names – especially before the Tibetan people.
Thanks for joining Patt and me on this visit to Champa Choeling. For us it has been a wonderful “walk down memory lane” as we have put these pictures together. They remind us afresh of God’s love for relationships and networking His family together across racial, ethnic and cultural barriers. We hope you have been edified and encouraged by your vicarious fellowship with our dear Tibetan partners through this report. We continue to be awed and amazed over how God sovereignly networked us with Pala, Amala, Yacob, Linda and the children.
From the very beginning, the Tsherings were so gracious to adopt us into their Tibetan family and mentor us in some of the realities of Tibetan life. Our lives have been enriched beyond measure by our decades of friendship and partnership with them.
Most of all, they have given us a greater heart of understanding and compassion for reaching Tibetans – through Tibetans. Thanks for your partnership in this unique and historic partnership to the most resistant and lest responsive people group in the world. We still have much to do to continue to build on Pala’s foundation. We welcome your prayers and financial support to that end.
One final loving challenge: Please include these precious Tibetan children, as well as the scores of children in our other children's homes, in your Christmas shopping. Every year we give a gift to each child, along with a special “Christmas Feast.” So please join Patt and me in giving what you can for these special children. While we hope that Santa Claus will NOT visit them – we hope Jesus will through your love and compassion!
In His love for Tibetans,
JL & Patt
PS: We still have some copies of A Tibetan Monk’s Story about Pala’s life and ministry, filled with colorful pictures from Nepal and Tibet, and would love to send you a copy to enjoy. If you already have one, it would be a timely “stocking stuffer” for Christmas – especially for your pastor, Sunday School teacher, mission coordinator or youth director. Please click on the book cover picture at left to be redirected to our online store.
“Train a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
Pastor Nima Tshering and the children of Champa Choleing
Dear Ministry Partners,
It has been a number of weeks since my last report on our ongoing Children’s Ministry. Helping needy children has always been at the heart of our ministry. Even before Patt and I were married in December,1964, we worked together in a Children’s Home in Kentucky. So, helping needy children has been in our spiritual DNA from the very beginning of our marriage and ministry.
After our last trip to India and Nepal to visit our Children’s Homes there, we started a series of reports to update you on these vital ministries that have been going on across the decades. And each one has been made possible through the faithful prayers and support of partners like you.
Unfortunately, I have had to interrupt that special series of reports due to Hurricane Matthew and our involvement in relief and rebuilding in both Haiti and Freeport, Bahamas (please click here to review a report on relief efforts).
Next, there was my unexpected stay in the hospital for 9 days due to heart issues, a new pacemaker and 2 stents – which I reported on through some of my observations titled “Experiencing Church in the Hospital” (please click here to review this report).
At the same time, there were the historic presidential elections and my several op-eds on those events (please click to review Part 1 and Part 2 ). Finally, there was our annual Thanksgiving Celebration that took place last week. With all of those events now in my rearview mirror, I am able to finally get back to updating you on several of our Children’s Homes in India and Nepal.
Through this series of reports, Patt and I want you to be as blessed and encouraged as we are over the long-term impact these Homes have had on the lives of hundreds of precious children. Just to review, here are the Homes that we helped establish and have supported monthly for several decades:
Also, since their annual “Christmas Party” is coming up on December 6th, I will soon send you an exciting report on the "Adventure School" in the Kibera slums of Nairobi, Kenya.
A HOME BY TIBETANS FOR TIBETANS
The late Pastor Nima Tshering and his wife, Amala.
This report is a special focus on "Champa Choeling" or “Place of Love,” a Children’s Home that is especially unique because it is exclusively for needy Tibetan children. It is one of our oldest partnership ministries in Nepal dating back almost 3 decades.
Champa Choeling was founded some 33 years ago by the late Nima “Pala” Tshering, and his wife, Amala. In the early days of their ministry, they reached out to sick and needy adult Tibetan Refugees living in Nepal. Since the concept of compassion through good deeds is central to Buddhism, their loving acts of Christian compassion in the Name of Christ were central to their ministry.
Pala and Amala often shared with me this principle: “Tibetan Buddhists are not won by words but by practical deeds of compassion.” So their ministry to the sick, needy and homeless was their open door into the hearts of Tibetan Refugees.
But God also uniquely equipped Pala to minister to Buddhist monks, since he had been one himself for 38 years before his conversion to Christ. His son, Yacob, continues this ministry to monks today.
A ministry to Tibetan Buddhist monks...
... continued to this day by Pala's son, Yacob.
After several years of ministry to adult Tibetan Refugees and monks, Pala and Amala realized that the best possible way to reach Tibetans was by reaching the children.
In Nepal there were many needy orphan, semi-orphan or extremely needy Tibetan children needing adoption. Many had lost one or both of their parents through their escape over the high snowy mountains from Tibet to Nepal. So Pala (“father”) and Amala (“mother”) adopted them as their own children.
Since he was a former Tibetan monk from his childhood, Pala had become the recognized patriarch of Tibetan Christianity. He was unique in the small world of Tibetan Christianity where conversion to Christ was almost non-existent. That’s because the Tibetan people then and now are renown as the least evangelized and most resistant people group in the world to Christianity.
In a recent email, Pala’s son and daughter-in-law, Yacob & Linda Tshering, shared again with me the great difficulty of reaching Tibetan Buddhists for Christ:
“As you know its very difficult for a Tibetan Buddhist to at once become a Christian and get baptized like takes place regularly through the Nepali Churches. That’s why Pala always told us that even just putting a seed in the hearts of a Tibetan Buddhist is a VERY GREAT ACHEIVEMENT!
But it is still very, very difficult to do even that because most are not even ready to listen! That’s because they have their living god whom they call "His Holiness the Dalai Lama," who is alive and whom they can talk to, meet, worship and follow as their living god and political leader. In their minds and hearts, he is still the ‘King of Tibet.”
So our situation is very different from the Nepali people and other people groups. But we are still very happy that we have been able to sow God’s Word in the lives of so many Tibetan people – starting with the children. Thank you for your continued prayers and support for this unique ministry.”
To better understand the spiritual bondage of Tibetan Buddhism, Patt and I
made two trips to Tibet - which was taken over by China in 1950. Lhasa is
to Tibetan Buddhism what Rome is to Catholics or Mecca is to Muslims. The
spiritual darkness there cannot be explained - only experienced.
TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW…
“When He ascended on high He…gave gifts to men…
it was He who gave some to be apostles...prophets...
evangelists...pastors...teachers, to prepare God's people
for works of service, so that the body of Christ
may be built up...and become mature, attaining
to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ"
Dear Friends & Partners,
Now that I am home from the hospital and the elections are over, I wanted to share a few summary thoughts about my recent week at the Duke University Medical Center. Since so many of you were a faithful part of my healing team through your prayers, I wanted to share this report with all of our domestic and foreign partners at one time – which I hope will bring closure to this chapter of my life.
Across the years, I have often shared this quote: “The church is not a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners.” We all need the church because we are spiritually sick – not because we are spiritually well. Even after we become Christians, we still have lingering “heart problems” that need to be healed.
Just like I had a physical heart problem that needed medical attention, every human being is born with a spiritual heart problem. Every human being has an incurably sick heart. As God said through the prophet: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jer. 17:9). The Hebrew phrase here means “incurably diseased.” How does that manifest itself? Disobedience toward God and deceit toward others.
So, we do not just need some heart medication… heart therapy… heart by-pass surgery… or stents put in like I had. We all need a total heart transplant! We all suffer from a terminal case of “hardening of the spiritual arteries.” Thankfully, our Great Physician specializes in heart surgery. That’s why He promised: “I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.”
But, how do we know that a spiritual heart-transplant has taken place in a person? The Bible is clear about the answer: “They will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezek. 11:19-20; 36:26). A spiritual heart transplant cures the problem of disobedience toward God and deceit toward others. A new healthy heart results in healthy spiritual living. It takes a new healthy root to produce new healthy fruit.
That’s why the heart of ministry is ministry to the heart! Until there has been a heart transplant, there will be no real transformation of character and behavior. Until the old, selfish, hard, rebellious, resistant, disobedient heart is replaced and healed – nothing else positive can take place in a person’s life.
After putting in a new pacemaker with a 3rd wire, and stents in the 2 blocked arteries, my doctors recommended (demanded!) “cardiac rehab” for 3 months. This “cardiac rehab” involves supervised exercises, designed to strengthen my heart.
As Christians, we don’t need “cardiac rehab” for 3 months or for 3 years – we need it for life! None of us ever “age out” of needing on-going spiritual heart therapy through active worship and fellowship in a good church! That’s why we are exhorted to “…not give up meeting together” (Heb. 10:25). We just can’t keep our spiritual heart healthy without regular private and public worship and fellowship.
Every Christian needs a good church home. And by a “good church” I mean one where the “…whole counsel of God” is preached and practiced (Acts 20:20; c.f. 2:42; Col. 1:25). Not one that only has a “…form of godliness but denies its power” (II Tim. 3:5).
Without that kind of ongoing “heart-therapy, we will never “grow up” spiritually. We will continue to be “…immature like children…tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching” – while God desires us to “…grow in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church” (Eph. 4:14).
During my 9 days in the Duke Hospital, I could not help but compare what I observed and experienced there with the local church. Since I was originally a pre-med student in college, I have always been fascinated by the medical field. So, let me share a few obvious parallels between the hospital and the church, that I wrote down while tethered to my hospital bed…
1. DEDICATION: First and foremost, I sensed a strong dedication on everyone’s part to the practice of medicine. As one of the top Medical Centers in America, there was an obvious sense of pride in being a part of that institution.
While watching so many of the staff go through their daily and hourly rounds, I thought of the words of Solomon: “My heart took delight in my work” (Ecc. 2:10). As you will see at the end of my op-ed, you don’t make it in the medical field unless you have a firm calling and dedication to medicine. Unless you have a basic delight in this discipline – you will not stay with it. That’s because it is not just a vocation, it is a way of life.
In like manner, the Christian life is not a one-hour-a-week activity on Sunday. It is not an on-and-off-up-and-down-hot-and-cold-in-and-out lifestyle. It is a radical dedication to following Jesus Christ – wherever it leads you. It is a 24/7/365 dedication to be His disciple – whatever the cost.
And for certain, Christian ministry is a calling from God – not a commissioning by man. Only God can call, commission, anoint and empower a person for ministry. We do not volunteer for ministry – we are conscripted by God Himself.
After being arrested by the resurrected Christ on the Damascus Road, Paul was commissioned for ministry – the most unlikely and unworthy candidate in the world! But that call became his life-long dedication. He summarized it to the church at Philippi: “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Phil. 3:12). God is always the Initiator and we are the responder. His sovereign, prevenient grace always precedes everything on our part.
I sensed that kind of dedication and tenacity from many at Duke. I want to sense more of that total dedication in the local church – especially among pastors and leaders!
Thanks to this good medical team, and several
other teams of doctors and specialists, I am
2. DIRECTION: There was a clear direction in each department about what they were supposed to do. And this direction was set by the doctors who where obviously the heads of everything. They were the clear decision-makers and pace-setters.
The word of the doctors was accepted as authoritative and decisive. There was total respect toward them from the rest of the staff. As far as I could observe, no rebellion against their authority was tolerated. Everyone else seemed to try and carry out the decisions and directives of the doctors.
Also, there was no passivity or inactivity from top to bottom. There was little or no “sitting around.” Everyone was busy during their entire shift carrying out their duties – based on the directives and dictates of the doctors. Unlike much of Christianity, medicine is not a spectator-sport. It is a proactive, hands-on personal involvement.
By contrast, millions of Christians live out most of their lives aimlessly. With little clear understanding of the Bible, they just “go through the motions” of the Christian life. By no fault of their own, they end up mistaking Christianity for religion and rules and regulations instead of a relationship with the living God through His Holy Spirit. As a result, there is little or no “new direction” in their lives, priorities and behavior.
Again, the church is filled with millions of people who have the “form of godliness” without the “power” to live it out. Their Christianity is an empty, hollow, lifeless shell. They are experiencing Church-anity – but not authentic Christianity!
Because of this lack of clarity, I have often compared the Christian life of many people to the voyage of Christopher Columbus. “He set out on a journey – but he did not know where he was going. When he got there, he didn’t know where he was. And when he returned, he didn’t know where he had been!”
That’s the vague, nebulous, aimless, directionless, powerless Christian life for millions of people!
However, in most hospitals, there is far more clarity of direction than there is in many churches!
3. DIVERSITY: At Duke I quickly saw that there was an incredible diversity in both leadership and followership at every level. While I was there, I was attended by Blacks, Whites, Latinos, Asians and mixed ethnicities. Their racial and national origins were India, China, Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Costa Rica, Sierra Leon, Nigeria, Liberia, Guatemala, Guam, Philippines – just to mention a few. So with all of the diverse racial tones and accents, I felt right at home! It was like being in a foreign country!
With some of my wonderful nurses, to whom I gave books.
Likewise, the Kingdom of God is to reflect that same “unity in diversity” in and through the local church. First, there is a diversity of leadership that Paul outlined as “…apostle, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers.” He added to this list of leaders, those who had the gifts of “…miracles, healing, helps, administration, tongues” (I Cor. 12:28-29).
In John’s Revelation of the universal church in heaven, he saw a similar diversity. The eternal church was composed of people who had been purchased by the blood of Christ from “…every tribe and language and people and nation.” And together they had become a “…kingdom and priest to serve God” (Rev. 5:9-10; 7:9).
The true church of Jesus Christ is incredibly diverse – but not divided. And it is not inactive – but rather proactive. In both time and eternity, the authentic church is a unique “kingdom of priests” where everyone “…serves God.”
In a hospital, everyone “serves medicine.” But again, in the Kingdom that is coming, everyone “…serves God.” That means there will still be eternal work to do that will bring unspeakable pleasure to God and to us! This life is the prep-school… pre-med…pre-ministry…internship – for an eternity of worship through service!
Therefore, since there is a diversity of gifts from the same Holy Spirit, there is a diversity of ministry in the Body of Christ. Whether it is through “…serving… encouraging… giving… governing… showing mercy… extending hospitality” (Rom. 12:6-13), every believer is gifted with some spiritual gift or gifts. And every gift is for the purpose of “…serving others” (I Pet. 4:10).
In a good hospital you will see this diversity of serving taking place better than you do in most churches. Sadly, in far too many churches the majority are “spectators” rather than “ministers.” According to the verses I shared at the beginning, every believer is to ultimately be equipped as a minister. He is to become a “priest” – which is someone who “serves God.”
The role of every Christian pastor and leader is to help every one of his fellow church members discover, develop and deploy their spiritual gifts to God’s glory through serving others, inside and outside the church!
4. DISCERNMENT: The over-arching MO, or modus operandi, of everyone at the Duke Hospital was to clearly discern what the malady of each patient was. It mattered not whether the sick person was black or white, rich or poor, old or young, educated or uneducated, well dressed or shabbily clothed – the goal was to find out what was wrong with the patient.
Every examination, test and diagnosis was focused on discernment. The moment I was admitted to the hospital, I was hooked up to a plethora of medical devices designed to discern what my problem was. My blood pressure was constantly monitored, my temperature regularly taken, my oxygen level measured. Most of all, blood was drawn and analyzed multiple times a day. Doctors know what the Bible reveals, that “…life is in the blood” (Lev. 17:11). If there are heart problems, it will manifest itself in the blood very early and clearly.
As many of you know, our youngest son, Jonathan, is an Emergency Room physician. It was his medical discernment that I needed a heart catherization that probably saved my life. He strongly felt that my symptoms and condition could no longer be clearly discerned through various external diagnoses. The medicines were just treating the symptoms and not the problem. So, I am probably alive today because of his correct medical discernment! Thanks son!
In like manner, one of the specific spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit has given to His church is the “gift of discernment” (I Cor. 12:10; Phil. 1:9-10; Heb. 5:14; c.f. I Kings 2:9; Ps. 119:125). It is just as crucial and necessary to properly diagnose where a person is spiritually, emotionally and mentally as it is to correctly discern their medical condition. And since people can be possessed or oppressed by many “alien spirits” other than the Holy Spirit, the “discerning of spirits” is crucial for Christian parents and pastors (I Jn. 4:1).
5. DEPARTMENTALIZATION: Along with the diversity of medical specialization, there was a corresponding departmentalization. Not everyone worked in the same area of medicine. There were special departments for every age group from Pediatrics to Geriatrics. And the purpose of medical discernment was to get every patient to the right department so they could be better helped and healed.
Unless a serious misdiagnosis had taken place, a Cardiologist would not send a heart patient to Orthopedics. Nor would they send a male Urology patient to Gynecology! The plumbing wouldn’t match! And hopefully they would not send someone who needed to see a Podiatrist to see a Psychiatrist! A “mental” problem is vastly different than a “foot” problem! They are at opposite polls of the human anatomy!
I also experienced personally that when there is a serious medical crisis or emergency that is deemed to be immanently life-threatening, you are quickly put in the ICU – or the Intensive Care Unit. There you get even closer medical monitoring and medical attention.
By contrast, the church often ignores or turns a blind eye to Christians who are going through an acute spiritual crisis. Their “silent cries” are not heard. Their minds are “dominated by doubt.” Their spirits are in “bondage to fear.” As the poet, Thoreau, said of the masses: “They live lives of quiet desperation.”
Sadly, in many churches regular members could die on the pew and no one would notice for weeks!
But not in a good hospital. The moment the vital signs take a turn for the worse, the alarms go off. Certain crisis codes kick in. Everything intensifies! And every effort is made to save the life and stabilize the patient.
At this point the saying is sadly true: “The church is the only army that shoots its wounded!” By contrast, hospitals are 100% geared for healing. They will do anything to save a life – at any cost. The church should be eager and willing to do the same.
But there is another thing you quickly experience in any good hospital: they match the diet to the patient’s situation. Low fat, no grease, no salt, low calorie, little seasoning – no taste! YUK! Hospital food tastes anything but nourishing! But is supposedly designed to help you learn to eat healthier – which I haven’t mastered yet! So, discernment, departmentalization and diet are essential for the practice of good medicine. (And, no, I didn’t eat the delicious banana bread that our granddaughter Abigail made me in one sitting!)
But, Holy Spirit discernment, good ecclesiastical departmentalization and a healthy spiritual diet are equally vital in the church – God’s spiritual hospital. Sadly, this is often not well practiced in the church. In most churches, little time is given for serious individual discernment about a believer’s spiritual health. Therefore, they are often left to flounder, flip, flop and flap around as new believers – hoping to eventually land in the right Sunday School department or small group!
Too often we let their chronological age – not their spiritual age or emotional age – determine their place and role in the church. Often times a new “babe in Christ” (I Pet. 2:2) is put in an Adult Sunday School Class for mature believers. He or she is immediately fed “spiritual steak” when they have not yet learned how to drink spiritual milk or digest Biblical pablum (Heb. 5:12-14). So the new believer either becomes spiritually malnourished on one hand – or chokes to death on the other with “sound Biblical doctrine” they cannot digest!
Therefore, just as diet is crucial to healthy living, eating the right Biblical food is necessary for good spiritual health. But like we do in everyday life, most of us Christian have a “drive-through-fast-food” mentality that tries to live off “spiritual junk food.” That’s why spiritual malnutrition and Christian anemia are so high in the Western church today.
6. DISCIPLESHIP: Another impressive thing about any good “teaching hospital” like Duke is the high level of “medical mentoring” taking place. Some hospitals specialize in just treatment. Others have expanded their purpose into teaching. Some hospitals specialize in research. Others in teaching and training doctors or nurses. As a renown Medical School, Duke does some of all of these.
However, I was especially intrigued to watch the level of doctor training taking place all around me. Seldom if ever was I seen by just a single physician. There was always a senior doctor who was accompanied by a team of Residents, Interns, and Fellows. They were diverse racially and from many countries of the world. It was definitely a “team approach” to medicine.
In the church, a person often jumps into full time ministry with little or no preparation. Even if they go to Bible School or Seminary, many go directly into ministry with little serious discipleship and mentoring from older, wiser and more experienced pastors and leaders. As a result, they often make many unnecessary mistakes in ministry. Relationships are not built. People are neglected or hurt. Others are ignored. Some die spiritually on the pew! This lack of leadership training in the church leads to many unnecessary spiritual fatalities!
Regardless of the high quality of the Medical School, no doctor is turned loose in a hospital without several more years of medical mentoring under a number of more mature, experienced, seasoned physicians. Even though they are already an “MD,” they still have to go through an internship and then a residency. And depending on their specialization, many go on to post-residency programs that last for more years. Only then are they licensed to take the lead as a physician in either private or public practice.
All of these years of required education and mentoring are because theirs is a “life-and-death profession.” The physical lives and health of people hang in the balance of their discernment and decision.
Dare we take discipleship and mentoring any less serious in the church? Not only are people’s earthly spiritual health and well-being at stake – their eternal destiny also hangs in the balance!
My gifted surgeon, showing me pictures of where the two stents were inserted.
7. DISCIPLINE: Discipleship is based on discipline – whether in a hospital or church. Years of discipline, study and sacrifice, and hundreds of thousands of dollars of investment, are required to become a good physician.
This life of study and discipline does not stop after Medical School. In order to maintain their licenses, doctors have to regularly attend ongoing courses to get continuing educational credits that keep them current on new medical breakthroughs, laws and regulations.
Physicians have to develop a life-style based on discipline and sacrifice. Many get up early and go to bed late. Medical emergencies constantly interrupt their lives. They pull all-nighters – rain or shine. They miss a lot of special events and family time. While others are off on holidays, they have to work their shift. Their time and talent is not always their own.
That’s because medicine is not about the doctor – it’s about the patient. Their lives do not belong to themselves, they belong to the sick and needy. To give yourself to the practice of medicine means you give your life away in the service of others. In the process, you give your life to save others.
Just like medicine is based on a life of disciple, so is the Christian life – especially Christian leadership. Both are based on what has been called a life-long “obedience in the same direction.” And that obedience is directed toward loving and worshiping God and serving other people. The Christian life is not about you. It’s all about God and others.
As Christians or pastors, we can never relax and hit “cruise control.” We never get to the place where we do not need to practice the daily “disciplines of grace” like prayer, Bible Study and worship. Authentic Christianity is a lifelong call to discipline and self-surrender. Anything else is just a religious cover-up.
8. DILIGENCE: While I was in the hospital, I was impressed with the diligence of everyone in several crucial areas. First, as already noted, there was the diligence to practice correct medical discernment to diagnose the problem. This was ground zero. Everything started here.
But there was also an intense diligence for cleanliness. Everyone was diligent about creating and keeping a sterile environment free of germs.
There were signs posted all around about washing your hands and coughing into your elbow to keep from spreading germs. Bottles of disinfectant were hanging everywhere. The first thing that anyone did who entered my room was to wash and disinfect their hands. Then for double protection, they put on latex gloves before touching me in any way.
Obviously all of us get dirty spiritually, mentally and emotionally as we “do life.” Because we live in a polluted world, we pick up “spiritual germs” through our eyes and ears on a daily basis. That’s why we need the daily “…washing with the water through the word” to cleanse us (Eph. 5:26; Jn. 13:8-10).
But the medical staff was also diligent in their record-keeping. After washing their hands, they went to the computer hanging by my bed to record any and every thing they did. Temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, medicines given – nothing was omitted. That way all the other doctors and nurses had a current record of everything about me. As a result, when there was a change of shift, the new doctors and nurses had an accurate record of me to review. That way there would be a continuity and consistency in my medical treatment.
Sadly, there is no such record-keeping on the spiritual condition of most people in the church. As a result, the discipleship is capricious, haphazard and hit-and-miss. Is it any wonder why most Christians wallow in immaturity and carnality!
Finally, the medical staff were diligent in follow-up. Since being released from Duke, I have had multiple calls to check up on me. Both doctors and their assistants have called to see how I am doing. They especially are concerned to see if I have had any setbacks or problems. They understand that healing is both a crisis and process. They well know that if I do not continue to faithfully take my medicine and go through the cardiac rehab they have prescribed, I will probably plateau or get worse.
So follow-up on their part and follow-through on my part is essential to good health. It is no less the case in spiritual health.
Sadly, many pastors do not have a clue where their parishioners are spiritually. As one rather despondent and defeated Christian moaned to me: “My preacher did everything to get me into the waters of baptism – but I had to swim out on my own! And I haven’t heard from him since!”
Unfortunately, a lot Christian baptisms are really spiritual drownings!
9. DISOBEDIENCE: One thing quickly became clear to me at Duke: the medical staff would not tolerate any disobedience on the part of patients or visitors! There was strict and clearly defined medical protocol to be followed by everyone!
I have to admit – I am not a good patient! While I deeply appreciate doctors, hospitals and the entire medical community – I hate going to doctors! As a result, I am not a good patient!
By nature, I am a person who is not very in tune with my body. I am not constantly taking my pulse and temperature. I am generally not sensitive to pain and discomfort – unless it is really severe. I am anything but a hypochondriac who is constantly worried about my health. If anything, I am an incurable euphoric who has a perpetual sense of well-being!
Also, by God’s natural grace I have been blessed with the temperament of an incorrigible optimist. I have generally enjoyed good health – far better than I deserve! It has been my lifelong experience that a “…cheerful heart is good medicine” (Prov. 17:22).
I am just not generally prone to sickness or going to the doctors. Nor am I a “pill popper” who takes as much medicine as I can get away with. But now I have to take new medicines to keep the blood flowing through the stents. And when I do have to go to the doctor – usually forced by Patt – I want to get it over ASAP! As a result of my careless and cavalier attitude about my own health, I often do not want to obey what the doctors tell me. Patt and the doctors know that I will cheat! I will disobey what they tell me if I can get away with it!
Patt serves as my personal
Therefore, after the first day and night in the hospital, I was more than ready to leave! I was tired of being poked, prodded, probed and stuck with needles! Even though I was on the 7th floor, I told them I was soon leaving – either through the door or window! It was their choice!
I was nicely, but firmly, reminded that there was a special department for patients who were either willfully or mindlessly disobedient – the Psychiatric Ward! So I decided to be a good patient so I would not be taken down the hall to the rooms with the padded walls where I would be strapped to my bed!
The good doctors at Duke, then, would not tolerate any disobedience on my part. Nor would Patt, or my children. They convinced me that this heart condition was life-threatening. So because of my love for them, and passion about what God has called me to do in life, I decided to be the best patient I could be – which was not natural for me! And I am still working at it.
As a result of this decision of obedience on my part, I hope God will be pleased to give me at least another decade to serve Him through serving others. But it will take a new level of continued obedience on my part – for which I ask for your continued prayers.
10. DELIGHT: Finally, one of the wonderful attributes I saw in virtually all of the people at Duke was a delight in what they were doing. They each seemed to exemplify a passion for their medical work – whether they were the lead physician or custodians who meticulously cleaned my room every day and night.
Since I too am passionate about what God has graciously called me to in life, I could spot that same passionate spirit in them. I asked a number of them this question: “Do you enjoy what you are doing?” Virtually all of them I asked that gave me a quick and positive response.
And just before my catherization, I asked the young, energetic surgeon who was doing the process two questions: “How many of these procedures have you done?” He said several thousand. Good answer so far!
Then I further asked: “Do you enjoy doing heart catherizations and putting in stents?” He enthusiastically responded: “I love doing them! They are my passion!” I responded: “You are the surgeon I want! Let’s get going!”
In all of my leadership seminars and books I repeat the oft-quoted principle: “Do what you love and love what you do!” The corollary is obvious: “If you love your work – you will never work a day in your life!” You will not be going to work like a condemned criminal who has been given a life-sentence of hard labor on life’s chain gang! NO! A thousand times no! You will be doing your passion!
Jesus echoed this same delight in God’s will in the Garden of Gethsemane – even when it was leading Him to the cross to die by crucifixion for the sins of the whole world. As the writer of Hebrews summarized, it was this delight that carried Him forward through the pain and shame. It was because of the “…joy set before Him” that Jesus “…endured the cross, scorning its shame” (Heb. 12:2). He kept His “eye on the prize” – which was yours and my salvation, sanctification and glorification!
Sadly, millions of church members live out their Christian life in a sense of duty rather than in a sense of devotion and delight! The Psalmist exclaimed: “I delight to do your will, O God” (Ps. 40:8). He found his soul’s delight in two things: God’s will and God’s Word (Ps. 1:2; 16:3; 119:47, 70, 77, 92, 143, 174; c.f. Isa 61:10; Rom. 7:22)
Is that a mind-blow, or what?! This reminds us that you and I are God’s greatest delight (Ps. 18:19; 37:4; Isa. 62:4; 65:19; Jer. 312:20; Zeph. 3:17)! He delights in us as a father does over the son whom he loves (Matt. 3:17; c.f. Heb. 12:6; Rev. 3:19). And my favorite verse about God’s delight over us is this:
“…the Lord will take delight in you…as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you” (Isa. 62:4-5).
Saints, it just doesn’t get better than that!
Rejoicing in a successful surgery!
(Left to right: Julie, April, Jonathan, Patt & Joseph)
I could go on and on about more of my “experiencing church in the hospital.” But I think you get the point and parallel. To me, the principles were inescapable. I hope they will be the same for you.
Through the combination of God's mercy, strong prayers,
and good medicine, I am home and healing!
Patt and I especially thank you for your faithful prayers for us as we have gone through these medical procedures. I am now at home and feeling great! But I know that this is not over for me yet. Hopefully, the major medical issues have been found and rectified. Now I just have to force myself to “gear down” and “pace myself” for a few months – 4 to be exact, so everything can properly heal.
Since I am grounded from international travel for the next 4 months, I will continue to stay in touch with all of our national partners and projects by the internet and phone. In the virtual world we live in, my geographical location is almost immaterial. With my iPhone and computer, I continue to stay in daily and hourly contact with all of my beloved buddies in the Kingdom – locally and globally.
This ability of instantaneous communication is something that the Apostle Paul could never have imagined as he wrote his epistles to nurture his national leaders and young churches. He would have to wait for weeks or months for their slow hand delivery and response. But, for us today, that takes place at a push of a button! Certainly this is part of those “greater works” that Jesus said we would perform (Jn. 14:12). Thanks for being a part of their fulfillment through your spiritual and financial partnership!
Finally, the word “transition” dominates the news now as everyone watches in infinite detail Obama’s transition out of the presidency and Trump’s transition into it. This email will also mark my reporting transition from political and medical op- eds to ones that focus again on our national partners and projects. Thanksgiving week will mark that transition.
Patt and I have a LOT to report on that we postponed due to the elections and my medical situation. I will not focus on either of those 2 things again unless there is some monumental change. Until my next eNewsletter, we continue to live and minister for…
His Glory in the Church (Eph. 3:21),
PS: Since this op-ed has been a comparison between a hospital and church, it is a joy to announce to you the re-publication of my book, Biblical Pictures of the Church. We would love to send you a copy for any gift of $10 or more. You will find it an encouraging and comprehensive study of all of the relational pictures of the church in the Bible. I want you to enjoy the blessings and benefits of the rich relationship that Christ made available for you through His indwelling Holy Spirit in the fellowship of the church. Please be sure to request your copy today!
Dear Friends and Partners,
Thanksgiving blessings and early Christmas Greetings to you in the love of the Lord Jesus!
Many of you have already started shopping for those special gifts for Christmas 2016.
Again this year, it is our prayer that you will remember a special Christmas gift for one of our national partners in the Third World. Just like the Magi traveled a long distance to present their gifts to the baby Jesus, your gift through JLPF will travel to some of the most distant corners of the kingdom of God. Many needs will be met by your love gift, and many grateful hearts will praise the Lord for your generosity!
In His Christmas love, joy and peace,
To be redirected to our donations page to give securely through PayPal, please click here. Thank you, and may God bless you this Christmas Season!
7. HONOR: When I was a Boy Scout, the first thing I had to memorize was the “Boy Scout Oath.” We began every meeting by standing with the Boy Scout Salute and reciting this oath as a reminder of the “code of honor” of scouting:
“On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”
As you can see, the Boy Scout Oath begins with a presupposition of honor. Specifically, to honor God and country. That means to honor God’s laws and man’s laws.
The Bible teaches that first and foremost every person is to honor God as the Ultimate Authority in the universe. As our Creator and Sustainer, He alone is worthy of total honor and glory.
God assures us: “Those who honor Me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained” (I Sam. 2:30).
There is no middle ground here. It is either “honor” or “disdain” when it comes to our attitude about God and His authority. And it does not take a lot of discernment to see what the growing national attitude has been in America – especially among the leftist elitists. To them, God is passé…old fashioned…outdated…irrelevant.
Sit in on any university classroom lecture and you will quickly learn that any serious belief in God and His authority is ridiculed as a foolish superstition held-over from the Middle Ages. After all, humanism has supplanted deism. Man has come of age! He is his own god. Enlightened and educated people have set aside this “primitive” Christian religion based on an ignorant literal interpretation of the Bible! After all, modern science has now disproved it in so many ways. Any serious belief in God and His restrictive rules and regulations are irrelevant to modern life – especially when it comes to things like sexuality and marriage!
Almost any conversation in a classroom, courtroom, locker room, bedroom, bathroom or TV room will echo a general disdain of God! While He is constantly referred to – His Name is mostly often associated with “damn!”
References to God have been reduced to vile invectives and negative descriptive verbs of profanity. He is given anything but honor!
Here again we see how humility and honor go together. Proverbs reminds us that “…humility comes before honor” (15:33; 18:12). We neither give or receive honor without a heart of humility. While humility honors God and honors others, haughtiness honors neither.
God’s Decalogue also emphasizes the necessity of honor – which begins in the home. The Fifth Commandment gives this imperative – which comes with a wonderful promise: “Honor your father and mother, SO THAT you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Ex. 20:12; cf: Deut. 5:16; Matt. 15:4; 19:19: Eph. 6:2).
Therefore, rebellion against parents was tantamount to rebellion against God. Not to honor parents was not to honor God. The spirit of rebellion was considered as serious as the spirit of witchcraft – which was punishable by death (I Sam. 15:21)!
Is it any wonder then that Paul said one of the major signs of the end of civilization would be that people would increasingly become “…boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents…”
After that breakdown of honor in the home, basic anarchy spreads like gangrene as people are “…ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…”
Paul’s description is like watching and listening to the current “anti-Trump demonstrations” taking place in many American cities and on college campuses. And while spreading anarchy and mayhem, many would still consider themselves educated, civilized – even religious. But just like the ones Paul described, they “…have the form of godliness but deny its power” (II Tim. 3:1-5).
Indeed, the more things change the more they remain the same!
Sadly, many of God’s people today are also guilty of dishonoring Him just like His people did during the days of the prophets, as well as in the time of Christ. God says of both groups of people in different centuries: “These people honor Me with their lips, BUT their hearts are far from Me. They worship Me in vain” (Isa. 29:13; Matt. 15:8).
Even worse, we have switched the price tags on social values. We too have “…called evil good and good evil.” Many of us have also “…put darkness for light and light for darkness…bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” And in the process many in the church have become “…wise in our own eyes.” (Isa. 5:20-21).
In her concession speech to encourage her younger supporters, Hillary said something very true – if properly interpreted: “Fighting for what is right is always worth it!”
It is very disheartening that much of what she was fighting for was clearly wrong from a Biblical perspective (abortion, gay rights, gay marriage, lying, misuse of money, etc). It is a sobering example of the truth of what Jesus said: “If the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matt. 6:23).
Just like Hillary and the liberal democrats reveled in much of their cause as “light” and “enlightenment for the masses” – it was really darkness. As a result they are guilty of honoring the dishonorable. The debauchery of this perversion is seen and heard in the words of the Psalmist: “The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men” (Ps. 12:8). A few minutes of watching TV will quickly reveal how this kind of dishonorable behavior has spread throughout almost every area of our culture!
But the most dangerous form of dishonor taking place in America today is the dishonoring of Christ. If you in any way dishonor Mohamed in word or deed you face the public scorn of Islamaphobia. More likely, a fatwa, or death threat, will be issued against you by Muslim leaders.
Say anything negative about gays and you are accused of homophobia. Raise any concern about immigration and you are disdained as an un-American suffering from Xenophobia. Make any observation about any other ethnic group and you are branded a racist. Say or do anything that appears to denigrate women and you are branded a misogynist.
But suggest anything about the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and you are dismissed as a right-wing, extremist and fundamentalist bigot!
You are free to use Christ’s name as a swear word…vilify Him as a megalomaniac…brand Him as an adulterer with Mary Magdalene… portray Him as having a homosexual relationship with John…vilify Him in any and every way as a religious charlatan or buffoon – and no one will raise an eyebrow! If fact, you will probably be applauded.
One thing for sure, to do any of this on a university campus will make you relevant…enlightened…hip…cool – and probably get you an “A” on your exams – especially if it is a religion course!
And yet, Jesus made it clear that it is absolutely impossible to honor God without also equally honoring Him. The things He said and did clearly were declarations that He was “…equal with God” – which was as much anathema and politically incorrect then as it is now.
Everything Jesus said and did was so that “…all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent Him” (Jn. 5:18, 23).
To dishonor Christ in any way is to dishonor God and put ourselves under His certain judgment if we do not repent. Ultimately, we will banish ourselves to hell if we do not humbly honor Jesus as the total incarnation of truth…the only route to God…the only means of eternal salvation (Jn. 14:6).
However, honoring does not stop there. While our highest honor is reserved for God, He also commands us to love and honor each other. Vertical honor always results in horizontal honor. One is a prelude to the other. As we saw above through the Fifth Commandment, we first learn to honor those in authority over us by honoring our parents. This attitude of honor begins in childhood and continues throughout life.
In addition, this attitude of humbly honoring others is to spread from the physical family to the spiritual family. Paul exhorts us to: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves”
Likewise, the writer of Hebrews asked others to “…pray for us…to live honorably in every way” (Heb. 13:18).
To “…live honorably” is not just the Oath of a Boy Scout. It is the commitment and lifestyle of every authentic, mature follower of Jesus Christ!
But Paul does not stop his exhortation to honor inside the church. He moves outside to the world of politics and governance. Note and connect the dots here between our honoring of God and honoring of governmental authorities:
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God…he is God’s servant to do you good…Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities…
This is also why you pay taxes for the authorities are God’s servant, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him; if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor” (Rom. 13:1, 4-5, 6-7).
As we move from this election forward toward the inauguration of Trump on January 20th, we need to pause and remember that it was Moses’ lack of honoring God as holy before the people that kept him out of the Promised Land (Num. 20:12).
In like manner, our lack of honoring God as the only true God will keep us from “possessing our possessions” that God wants to give us afresh as a people and nation. Without that humble honor to God…parents…fellow Christians…governing officials – we will not “…live long in the land the Lord has given us.”
8. HOPE: People can live without almost anything better than they can live without hope. We can live weeks without food…days without water…minutes without air – but we die without hope! It is the emotional oxygen that keeps us alive.
As the wisdom of Proverbs reminds us: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick…” (13:12). For years, more and more Americans, especially Christians, were experiencing “heart sickness” over the direction of this great Republic. Millions were losing hope that things could or would ever change. They wrote off the political system as hopeless.
Many became prophetic, apocalyptic and “dooms-dayers” who believed that the end was near – both for America and the world. Others became survivalists and preppers who loaded up on food and ammunition and headed for the hills – where many are still hunkered down in political paranoia!
For several decades, more and more Americans lost their faith and hope in our political system. Democracy no longer seemed to work for them. The political machine seemed rigged against them. Money, special interest, packs, lobbyists and a few political elites seemed to be in control of everything – and out of touch with them.
The very fact that half the American populace didn’t even vote shows that millions had lost hope. Even sadder is the fact that some 50 million professing Christians didn’t vote either. They chose not to exercise their privilege and responsibility of citizenship because they had little hope that it would make any difference.
However, some 50 + million Americans did not lose hope. Even though it seemed the tides of freedom and fairness had receded, they were the growing undertow of a new swelling tide of freedom. They were underwater…unseen…undetected… under polled… unappreciated…unanticipated by the mainstream.
But, on November 8th, their tide rolled in like a mighty tsunami wave – destroying the elaborate Obama-Clinton political colossus! As a result of Trump’s election, the political house of cards of the liberal, leftist, elitist coalition has come tumbling down.
Like Humpty Dumpty, they had a great fall! And at this point: “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again!” But we can be sure they will try!
So, in the wake of Trump’s election, part of America has renewed hope – while others have sunk into hopeless despair, despondency and depression!
Certainly there were millions who did indeed put their hope in Trump. But they did so, not because he deserved it – but because he seemed the best option. The most reluctant Trump supporters saw him as the “lesser of two evils.” While he was anything but a perfect candidate – Hillary was also undesirable. Millions voted for Trump while holding their noses – especially many evangelicals!
And still…many of us more optimistically inclined Americans have great hope that a new brighter future is ahead. Not because of Trump – but because of God. He’s still firmly on His throne – which “…rules over all”
So our hope is in Him – and it is an exciting day to be alive!
I would remind you then, that the Bible is a book of hope. Hope is spoken of 95 times in the Old Testament and 85 times in the New Testament. Through these many verses, we are reminded that there are only three trustworthy sources of unshakable Hope:
Whether we are Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Liberals, Conservatives, Moderates – we can only find authentic hope in God through Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible! All other sources of hope will let you down. They will devolve and dissolve into hopelessness.
But through Jesus Christ we have a “good hope…blessed hope…living hope” (II Thess. 2:16; Titus 2:13; I Pet. 1:3).
Therefore, our hope is in Christ – not Donald Trump. It is in the Bible – not the Republican platform. It is in the Kingdom of God – not in Americanism.
We can be especially hopeful and thankful for Vice President elect, Mike Pence, who is a virile and mature evangelical Christian. We also are hopeful for the “Evangelical Counsel” of conservative Christian leaders that Trump has appointed to help guide him.
By faith we pray over Donald Trump, his wife, his children and grandchildren, his cabinet and appointees, this great Benediction of Hope from Paul:
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).
9. HAPPINESS: Happiness is one of the most persistent aspirations of the human spirit. It is consistently one of the highest priorities that people give for their lives. Happiness is the illusive Holy Grail that people spend their lives looking for. To “be happy” is a goal of virtually every normal human being. No one in their right mind wants to live their lives in perpetual unhappiness!
But being an American doesn’t insure happiness. The American Constitution does NOT promise or guarantee happiness. It only ensures the freedom for the “…pursuit of happiness.”
Obviously, millions of Americans have not been successful in that pursuit! Happiness has eluded them. The very fact that there are so many millions of Americans who are addicted to alcohol and drugs proves that they have not found lasting happiness. The depression and suicide rate sadly shows the deadly level of unhappiness that millions of people live with – and die with.
Many Americans have been very unhappy politically for years as they have watched the governmental system – under both Republicans and Democrats, take our nation in a direction that is unhealthy and dangerous. The political establishment has increasingly worked against them – not for them. It has not given them more freedom – but more bondage.
Right now, Trump supporters are “hopefully happy.” On the other hand, Clinton supporters and Democrats are “pessimistically unhappy.” Both sides need to pause and remember that no president or political party can bring lasting happiness to an individual or nation. Happiness is not theirs to give.
Authentic happiness only comes from God. As our good and gracious Abba, Father, God wants His people to be happy. He is not some “Celestial Scrooge” who wants His children to be miserable! He loves to give “good gifts” to His children (Matt. 7:11; Lk. 11:13). That is His nature.
We see this in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. God created the man and woman and put them in a literal paradise to enjoy. After every fiat of creation, He proudly proclaimed that it was “good.” A good God cannot create anything that is not good!
In the Old Testament, we see that Judaism revolved around 7 Festivals and Feasts – each of which was a time of happiness, joy and celebration (Zech. 8:19). Each was relationally oriented and focused on God, family, nation and work.
After seeking happiness in all of the wrong places, Solomon ultimately concluded that the essence of life was “happiness with your wife” and “happiness with your work” (Ecc. 3:12-13; 9:9; c.f. Deut. 24:5; Prov. 5:18).
Heaven is a place of eternal happiness beyond description or comprehension. Paul quoted this from Psalm 40:5:
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed it to us by His Spirit” (I Cor. 2:9-10).
So if Heaven is a place of eternal happiness beyond our wildest imagination – God gives us small foretastes of it here on earth. But it only comes His way.
Bottom line: Happiness only comes by living for and serving others – especially those who are most needy.
Jesus lovingly lured His disciples with the ultimate reward of eternal heavenly happiness. This eternal bliss was reserved for those who selflessly ministered to the “…hungry…thirsty…stranger…naked…sick…prisoner…” To them Jesus said the Father would one day say:
“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master’s happiness” (Matt. 25:21-23).
Therefore, happiness is a choice. It is a choice to serve God by serving others. Happiness is a by-product. Serving is the root; happiness is the fruit.
We only find happiness when we quit looking for it. When we seek God and His glory through serving others and meeting needs – happiness abounds in our lives!
I am eternally grateful that my parents taught me this principle when I was young. They said:
“Son, if you want to be happy in life, give yourself to a cause greater than your self. Serve other people. Live to meet needs. Look around, the happiest people you will ever meet in life are the ones who are serving others. And the most miserable people are the ones who want everyone to serve them!”
I have sought to live my life by that very simple but profound Christian philosophy. And I certainly have not done it perfectly or consistently. But whenever I have done so, serving others has made me one of the happiest people on earth! Everyday is what I call a “Kingdom Adventure” filled with “sovereign serendipities” of happiness – just waiting to be explored and experienced! And each one has enriched my life with relationships in America and around the world I could never have imagined or manipulated. Truly, I am a happy man! Life doesn’t get any better than that!
That’s what I want more of my fellow Americans to discover afresh through this election. This is not a time to gloat over winning or whine over losing. It is a fresh opportunity for the “…pursuit of happiness” through serving God and serving others!
10. HARVEST: While many faced this election with an apocalyptic, end of America mentality, I never did so. Even though I was gravely concerned about the wrong direction our nation was going in, I was always hopeful for a “new direction” that would turn things around – beginning in the church. While God is a God of justice and judgment, He is never eager to judge a nation unto destruction.
God is not first and foremost a “God of anger and wrath!” The most succinct definition of Him is this: “God is love” (I Jn. 4:8). And while His love is a “jealous love,” it is not an angry, wrathful, vengeful love (Ex. 20:4-5; 34:12-14; Deut. 4:24; Josh. 24:19; Ps. 78:58; I Cor. 10:22, etc).
Contrary to what many people believe, even some Christians, God is not sitting on the edge of His throne eagerly looking for an opportunity to rain down fire and brimstone! He is first and foremost motivated by love, mercy and grace. That’s why He was willing to save wicked Sodom and Gomorrah if only ten righteous people could be found living there (Gen. 18)!
Because of His “Amazing Grace,” God also wanted to save wicked Nineveh (modern Iraq) from destruction even though his reluctant servant, Jonah, wanted Him to rain down fire and brimstone on it! Instead, God sent a national revival to Nineveh that turned the whole city to repentance, restitution and revival!
I know God wants to do the same for America – even though millions among us have developed a suicidal love affair with sin! None of us merits His love, mercy and grace – whether we are Republicans, Democrats or Independents. We all merit God’s wrath.
But His love for us motivates Him to be patient and long-suffering toward us to bring us to repentance (Ex. 34:6; Num. 14:18; Ps. 86:15; Joel 2:13; Rom. 2:4; II Pet. 3:9, 15, etc).
God said to His own people as they rebelled and were guilty of flagrant idolatry, apostasy and abominations deserving judgment and death:
“Rid yourself of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!” (Ezek. 18:32)
Again He implored them through love and mercy:
"I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?" (33:11).
The Apostle Paul echoed this same theme in God’s behalf when he wrote: “God our Savior, wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
But, Paul follows this inclusive invitation with an exclusive clarification concerning the only way for people to be saved: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men…” (I Tim. 2:5-6).
God hasn’t changed. His passion for the salvation of mankind has not lessened. He is still the God of the harvest. And he isn’t interested in just saving Americans. He’s interested in saving the whole world (Jn. 3:16)!
While we know that not everyone will be saved – I believe with all my heart that this election is ushering in a new day of national and international harvest like never before in history! Just as God used Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Nero and other pagan leaders, He can use Donald Trump to usher in a new day of prosperity and peace for America and the world.
However, the prosperity, peace, pro-Christian, pro-marriage, pro-family momentum I pray he will help bring in will not be an end in itself. It will not be so we Americans can sit back in the lap of luxury and live self-indulgent lives. It will not be so we can accumulate more “stuff!” Any new prosperity will not be so we can pamper ourselves into middle class mediocrity.
No! A thousand times no!! It will be so we can use our new peace and prosperity to meet more needs in the love and compassion of Christ. It will be to fuel the Gospel around the world with every new technique and technology increasingly available. It will be so we can build and beautify His Bride, the church. It will be so we can bring Kingdom values and virtues to the market place. It will be to bring in the greatest spiritual harvest in human history that His Holy Spirit is preparing!
Trump’s Triumph is a fresh call from the Lord to “…lift up our eyes to the fields that are white unto harvest.” Like never before in human history, “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Jn. 4:35; Lk. 10:2; Matt. 9:37; c.f. Joe. 3:13; Rev. 14:15).
May God grant us as His people not to become “…weary in well doing” knowing that in “…due season we will reap if we do not faint” (Gal. 6:9).
This election is ushering in a new day of faith – not fainting! Let’s maximize every moment and opportunity for His final harvest that will be privileged to help usher in the consummation of His Kingdom “…on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10)!
While I am exceedingly thankful – and somewhat surprised – with the “Triumph of Trump,” this is no time to gloat. Like millions of other evangelical Christians, I reluctantly voted for him. But his win had little to do with me – but everything to do with God, the church and the American people.
At the end of the day, this was not just an election – it was a revolution…a backlash…an uprising…a populists’ movement. And I choose to believe by faith that the results were sovereignly orchestrated and manipulated by God. It has potentially changed the trajectory of America for several decades to come. Time will tell.
Since so many of us as Christian leaders strongly sense God’s hand in all of this, I hope we will be like the men of Issachar who “…understood the times and seasons and knew what Israel should do” (I Chron. 12:32).
May God sovereignly draw wise men and wise women around President-elect Trump who understand that “…righteousness exalts a nation” (Prov. 14:34). May men like Vice President elect, Mike Pence, help keep Trump and his cabinet focused on the Biblical role of governmental authorities to “…punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.”
At the same time may we Christians understand afresh that “…it is God’s will that by doing good we should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men” and boldly “…live as free men…as servants of God.” May we not in any way “…use our freedom as a cover-up for evil” by manipulating Trump’s victory for our advantage and the disadvantage of others. Might we as the Body of Christ show the nation and the rest of the world what it means to “…love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king”
(I Pet. 2:14-15).
It is my prayer that the words “love…fear…honor” will increasingly characterize my own life privately and publicly as never before. And like the Lord Jesus, may we as Christians also go “…around doing good and healing all who are under the power of the devil” (Acts 10:38).
May we all see that through the “Triumph of Trump,” our Triumphant God is still at work “…within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.”
May God bless America and make her great through His grace and goodness…
PS: As I mentioned earlier in this now VERY long op-ed, I hope you will take one more moment to read the following political perspective of my friend, Ambassasor Lewis Lucke. I believe you will find it very timely:
After the smoke has cleared a bit since Tuesday's election results, I decided to pen a short piece to some of my friends and ex-friends, and I, for better or worse, did lose some friends as a result of the name calling and ugliness associated with the campaign.
I hope we can overcome and be more united as a people and a country. Time will tell but it doesn't look like too positive a prospect at this point.
Hell hath no fury like the prejudice of the enlightened liberal scorned. Apparently there is this liberal view against Trump voters that we are, after all, "bigots", "racists", "misogynists" and had little schooling past high school or so I was told, i.e. we're not very smart. (Does anyone else see this kind of attitude as exhibiting exactly the so-called character traits they accuse conservatives of?)
Geez, I worked for twenty years in Africa and the Middle East have scores of black and Muslim friends and I now find I am a "racist". Who knew? I have an advanced degree or two and speak three languages but I am apparently a "moron" as one ex-friend so eloquently put it. Who knew? Oh, I guess I need to tell my spouse that I am a misogynist too, after all these years. She will be surprised. Who knew?
After eight years of Obama's weak leadership, I am happy and finally looking forward to the future of a Trump Presidency. I was not happy or proud about some of the off-key rhetoric and name calling from earlier in the campaign but, in the end, a lot of us concluded he was far better than the alternative. Trump will shake up the place, but it needs shaking up and I suspect he will be forthright, respectful and "presidential" in the process.
I worked for and around HRC when she was FLOTUS and Sec. State and I was alarmed at the prospect of her self-serving, wrong-headed and, yes, crooked leadership.
From my work in Haiti, I saw first hand the negative effects the Clinton's had on that poor place. It is one thing to sell speeches to the rich for $250,000 a pop; it is quite another to steal from the poorest of the poor. Shame on them.
Thank God we do not have to listen to her for four years. Thank God Bubba will not be back in the White House (running the intern program?). I was sick and tired of them and thank God most Americans were too.
I repeat, had I or any of my Foreign Service, military or other colleagues done 1/100th of what she did abusing classified materials, we would be in jail. There is no equal justice yet for her, and won't be until she is charged for either misuse of classified materials, for pay-to-play corruption or other. It is pretty bad when you can have a multiple choice question about HRC's "high crime" options.
I rejoice the country does not have to live through four more years of Clinton corruption, lies and mischief. (Has she yet returned the furniture she stole from the WH the first time?) And by the way, when the military, security personnel and others who guard the Clinton's every day absolutely loathe her, it has to tell you something.
Friends in New York, DC and California have surely had their heads exploding in disbelief since Tuesday's results. Get over it – or don't. Out here in deep Red Texas (except I write from Deep Blue Austin) we could have told you the result was coming. I have been working in some small towns in Central Texas lately for my company and I can tell you I met no one and I mean practically no one who was "with her". By the way, yes, by all means let's have a woman president soon – but not THAT woman. We have plenty of good ones out there.
So God bless our Republic, restore us, protect us and keep us strong. May we as a people kiss and make up. Drain the swamp, Mr. President-Elect. Make America better. We're counting on it. God Bless.
Ambassador (ret) Lewis Lucke
Board Chairman, Fuelie Systems Inc.
Executive Director, Daroke Resources