Author: Ellen Metcalf

Greetings from Mongolia!

378A9243

Today is the third day of our two It Is Written medical clinics in the city of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia!

So far, the 20 It Is Written volunteers have seen over 500 patients. The hours are long and draining but no one is complaining. The honor to serve another human being is so rewarding. Our eight doctors have come across all sorts of cases ranging from simple colds to serious heart ailments.

Of all the consultations, the one family that stands out is the one that barely survived a devastating fire in their Ger (traditional Mongolian abode). The mother suffered serious smoke inhalation and the father and two daughters were severely burnt over most of their bodies. Heartbreaking. Our team gave them special cream for burns that is not available in Mongolia. You should have seen the mother’s smiles of thanks.

When the clinic closes in the evening, the It Is Written volunteers do not rush back to the hotel but instead spend another couple of hours leading out in evening meetings. These evening meetings include a children’s story, a health presentation, and a “Jesus Talk” where we introduce people to Christ. The attendance at both churches, where the clinics are being held, has been overwhelming—standing room only! Truly amazing. So many of the people present are the very same ones who came during the day to visit the doctors. This is the health message in action.

One of my favorite things about our It Is Written mission trip is giving Beanie Babies to the children—they absolutely love them. It’s something so simple yet so meaningful. I’m so grateful to the many It Is Written friends who have donated thousands of Beanie Babies for us to share with children around the world.

The final day of our journey will be this coming Saturday when we hope to have a great climactic end to a wonderful experience. Please keep us in your prayers.

– It Is Written Director of Evangelism Yves Monnier

IMG_4320

Children receiving their Beanie Babies after they visit the doctors.

378A0001 - Little Girl With Eye Problems

Because many do not have access to basic health care, Mongolians suffer from medical issues many of us have never heard of.

378A0237- Bob Durkus gives lady Glasses

Dr. Durkus gives a lady glasses for the first time.

378A0010 - Dr. Guild consults with Patient

Dr. Guild consults with a patient.

Child Beannie Baby 378A9570

The children love to receive their special Beanie Babies.

Dr. Puen Consulting 378A9509

Dr. Puen consulting an x-ray.

Dr. Dally sees boy complaing of ear aches. (Diagnosis too much ear wax buildup) 378A9777

Dr. Dally sees boy complaining of ear aches.

Post Consult Prayer (first time) 378A9845

After her medical consultation, this lady prayed for her first time.

Non Adventist Singing Songs from Hymnal for first time 378A9519

At the nightly “Jesus Talks” this lady sang songs from a hymnal for the first time in her life.

Dr. Puen Evening Health Talk 378A9628

Dr. Puen giving an evening health talk.

Happy Anniversary Escrito Está!

Happy Anniversary EE

Twenty-two years ago today It Is Written had the vision to expand the ministry to a new language: Spanish. Today, it is impossible to count the number of people from all over the world who have been blessed by the ministry of Escrito Está. Currently Pastor Robert Costa serves as Escrito Está speaker/director and Carolina Bonilla is his administrative assistant. Together with the It Is Written team, Escrito Está has grown into a strong part of the ministry, reaching thousands each year with the good news of Jesus.

In honor of this special 22nd anniversary, here are a few stories from the ministry of Escrito Está:

In 2007 Pastor Robert Costa was holding a series of meetings in Perú. The program was airing live on Nuevo Tiempo and his preaching time was almost up, but Pastor Costa felt impressed to continue making the altar call, so he went on, and on, and on… A few weeks later, he received an e-mail from a woman saying: “Pastor Costa, thank you for insisting on your altar call. After much struggle, my mother finally stood up in the last call. And it really was her last call. A few days later her body was found buried among the rubble caused by the earthquake that shook Perú. That had been her last chance and now I have faith that I will see her again when Christ returns.”

Or the case of the alcoholic man from Canada. His wife had prayed and prayed for healing for her husband who continuously lost his jobs due to his drunken state. One day the man, completely drunk, turned on the TV and Escrito Está appeared. By the end of the program, he decided to call the number on the screen. A group of young people answered and offered to go pick him up right then and there and bring him to church. Drunk and all, he attended Pastor Costa’s meetings and even fell asleep during the service. But the prayer and love by those young men who answered the phone call helped him to accept Christ and today he is a faithful Christian, no longer tied to his addiction.

One women is serving a lifetime sentence for decapitating her mother and attempting to kill her husband. She recently wrote in to Escrito Está looking for Bible studies. She has been in contact with the team and they are eager to see how the Lord will continue to lead in her life.

Pastor Costa and Escrito Está have a global reach and touch many hearts. They receive feedback constantly from people who want to express their gratitude or ask questions.

From Argentina:

“Pastor Robert Costa your messages are a great blessing to my life… Thank you for the Bible studies you’ve made available to all through your website. My blessings to you and to those accompanying you closely.”

From Uruguay:

“I have been shocked after listening to Pastor Robert Costa’s preaching. I’ve known the gospel for several years and for the first time I saw someone speak with such clarity about the Scriptures that I have no doubt that this message is from God. I would like to receive Bible study material. Thank you and God bless you.”

From Uruguay:

“I am one of perhaps thousands who have been baptized during an evangelistic meeting you’ve held… Your message gave me the necessary little push I needed. I write only to give you a warm greeting. I’m sure that our dear Lord Jesus will fill you with blessings and will enable you to continue with this beautiful ministry for which we are very proud, all your brothers and sisters and compatriots. Thank you for your messages.”

Countless are the number of people who have been reached through the efforts of It Is Written and Escrito Está and we’re very grateful to God for one more year of life, hoping soon to see the Lord come.

Greetings from Zimbabwe!

378A7408

Greetings from Zimbabwe!

Beginning earlier in March, the It Is Written team has been conducting 10 simultaneous series of meetings around the city of Gweru, which is right about in the middle of Zimbabwe. I am preaching at one site, my son Jacob at another. The remainder are covered by Chris Holland of It Is Written Canada; Gary Kent of It Is Written Oceania; It Is Written Evangelism Director Yves Monnier; It Is Written Trust Services Representative Curt Dolinsky; SALT Director Alan Parker; and Pastor of the Chattanooga First Church Dave Tunnell. In addition to our team there are three local pastors covering sites. The people have been very gracious, and after a very wet start to the meetings, the weather is now perfect; 84 degrees during the day, clear blue skies and a gentle breeze at most.

378A6647 (1)

A young boy after he received his Beanie Baby.

Dr. Gordon Guild of the It Is Written team has been doing practical health presentations each night and the reaction has been very positive. He has also been doing children’s stories for 150 to 200 eager children, and his stories have been a highlight. For those of you who donated Beanie Babies, you will be happy to know that Dr. Guild has been diligently handing them out to children when they answer Bible questions during his stories.

The sermon presentations have been appreciated, and every evening we have people making decisions to accept Jesus and to be baptized.  Altar calls are now being consistently made and the response to the invitations has been encouraging for both church members and leaders.

The Spirit of God is at work here. A local city councilor has made a decision to be baptized, and many other people are coming out each night. Similar things are happening at all the sites.  At each location around the city we are seeing God do great things, and I’m extremely grateful He has made this event possible through the prayers and support of those who uphold It Is Written.  There will be several hundred decisions for baptism by the time the meetings have concluded, and each person is being carefully followed up and nurtured.  That part of the process is taken very seriously here.  At my site, each one who makes a decision for Christ is enrolled in a small group.

380A6364

Myself and the owner of Antelope Park.

Each day a team goes into the community inviting people to attend the meetings.  The work done here is very thorough, and this is why we see the results we see.  The pastors have multiple churches and so the work of the church is done by church members.  One pastor told us that when he was in a rural district he had 79 congregations.  During a time of economic hardship, the pastors were not paid for two years, but God sustained them all.  There is real faith here, and incredible dedication to God, ministry, soul-winning, and the church.

We were able yesterday to film a television program at a local, private game reserve called Antelope Park. Antelope Park is a conservation park and they have a breeding program through which lions will be returned to the wild. Lion numbers have dropped precipitously in Africa in the last 40 years. The owner, a man we interviewed, has one arm. He had two arms until, yes, a lion got hold of him.  A sobering warning.  You can’t ever let your guard down with these big things, which is one reason Satan is referred to as a lion.

Filming with lions and lion cubs was a special experience, and very much in the tradition of It Is Written, which has featured tigers and lions in broadcasts in years gone by. Walking with two-year-old lions, petting them and even holding them by the tail was almost surreal, and it will make for compelling television to share Jesus. .

We plan to film another television program while we are here, at Great Zimbabwe, the old ruins of a kingdom from the 12th to the 15th century.  That’s where Zimbabwe derives its name. We will go there during the day to film, then come back in the evening to do the meetings.

Pray for us and the work we are doing here. May God be glorified! God bless you wherever you are.

Thank you for your continued support of this ministry.

John Bradshaw

P.S. Enjoy these photos from our visit to Antelope Park:

380A6589

380A6513

378A7184

380A6029

380A6119

380A6134

The Big Picture

Slider-BigPicture copy

I was driving to an airport and needed to return a rental car before I caught my flight.  Time was tight and I wasn’t sure where the rental car place was located, and although I had an address, I had no GPS. It was going to be tricky. I needed help to get where I wanted to go. If I didn’t get it, I’d miss my flight.

I called my wife. “Hey, could you pull up this address on the computer and guide me right to it?” I gave her the address, told her my approximate location and she began guiding me to the rental car company.

“Keep going in the direction you’re going, and in about a mile you’ll want to go south,” she told me.

But that wasn’t right. It couldn’t be. One thing I knew for sure was that the rental car place was to the north. If I went south, I’d get hopelessly lost and waste time I didn’t have. 

“No,” I said, “that’s the wrong direction. The airport is north.” 

Melissa was firm. “It’s the right direction,” she said. “Take the road south.” 

A freeway sign told me the road she was talking about was only half a mile away. I had less than thirty seconds to figure this out. I really didn’t want to botch this and miss a flight.

“But south is the wrong direction,” I said, very politely and without any tension showing in my voice. “I’ll be heading away from the airport!” 

She spoke reassuringly and with confidence. “No, you’ll be okay. Trust me. I can see the big picture.” 

Melissa was looking at the map on a computer. While I could only see what was directly in front of me, she could see it all. 

“Okay,” I said. “It doesn’t feel right, but I’ll do it. I hope you’re right.”

“Big picture,” she said. “Remember?”

So I went south—away from the airport, and away from the rental car location. “This had better work!” I thought to myself. And after driving south for about half a mile, my guide said to me, “Now, see that road going off to your right?” Yes, I saw it. “Take that, and tell me what happens.”

I took the road to the right, and it turned me around and took me north—towards the airport! Then there was a left, a right, a left… and I was exactly where I needed to be.

While I couldn’t see much at all, my wife could see the big picture. And I’ve found that’s how it so often is in life. We can see so little, while God sees everything. We might not know just where to go, or it might seem we’re going in a confusing direction, but God sees the big picture, and He knows that if we follow His leading, we’ll end up exactly where we need to be.

In Psalm 32:8, God says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.” Even if you can’t see what’s around the next corner, you can know that God can see, and you can trust Him. 

Whatever you’re facing today, trust the guidance of God. You might not always understand it, but He can see the big picture.

Happy Anniversary It Is Written!

Anniversary Buck Slip (1)

On March 25, 1956 the first known It Is Written broadcast was aired. Since then, It Is Written has used the most updated technology to share the love of Christ. Today, its programming can be viewed by 97 percent of the world’s population.

Although this ministry was the first religious television program to air in color, It Is Written’s history was not always a success story. When a prominent church leader first asked George Vandeman to try television as a means of reaching people with the gospel, the project failed. It was the late 1940s, and people were unsure how to use television for Christian programming. Not everyone was convinced that the new technology had a future.

George Vandeman circa 1956 at the early It Is Written studio located in New York City.

George Vandeman circa 1956 at the early It Is Written studio located in New York City.

In 1956, George Vandeman tried again and in March the first broadcast of It Is Written finally aired on television. The world of televised evangelism hasn’t been the same since. For the past six decades It Is Written has continued to share the light of God’s love around the world.

Today, It Is Written’s evangelistic series and weekly programming can be viewed by 97 percent of the world’s population on multiple television networks and online. It Is Written programming is broadcast on several networks including TBN, The Discovery Channel, ADTV, FirstLight, Hope Channel, LifeStyleTV, SafeTV, and 3ABN.

“As we turn the corner into our 60th year, our plans are bigger than ever,” said John Bradshaw, who has served as speaker and director of It Is Written since 2011. “Just weeks ago I met a stranger on a gravel path on the opposite side of the world who recognized me and said, ‘It Is Written has changed my life,’” Bradshaw said.

Sixty years after its first broadcast, It Is Written has sought to remain at the frontlines of media evangelism. Last year, it started a Bible school, released a mobile app, began a humanitarian project in Mongolia, and made the new Revelation Today evangelistic series available live to anyone with an Internet connection or smartphone. At the same time, it produced new television programming in English, Spanish, and American Sign Language, and relocated its headquarters to the U.S. state of Tennessee from California.

“I wish that my father were alive today to see what It Is Written has become in 2016,” said Connie Vandeman Jeffery, daughter of the founder, George Vandeman. “I wish he could meet John Bradshaw, and they could share stories of people who gave their hearts to Jesus because they tuned into a TV station or went to an evangelistic meeting, or found the program online.”

“How many more years do we have left to fulfill the gospel commission? It’s impossible to imagine we have another 60 years,” Bradshaw said. “I am hopeful we won’t celebrate too many more anniversaries. Jesus is soon to return, and the sooner the better.”

It Is Written plans to celebrate their diamond anniversary with a special televised program this fall featuring stories, music, and special features about the ministry’s impact around the world. Check with your church and local listings for broadcast times in your area.

Over the past six decades technology has changed dramatically. However It Is Written has remained steadfastly dedicated to using the most updated media to reach the world with the gospel.

Over the past six decades technology has changed dramatically. However It Is Written has remained steadfastly dedicated to using the most updated media to reach the world with the gospel.

Immeasurable Value

Untitled

The year is 1929 and America’s economy is on a rapid decline, while unemployment steadily grows with no end in sight. Many Americans find themselves living in extreme poverty while the American government itself struggles to remain intact. This state of economical uncertainty would continue for ten long years known as The Great Depression; the longest economical disaster to ever strike and paralyze western civilization.

Yet despite the world’s financial crisis there was a young man, automobile maker Ettore Bugatti, who wanted to create luxurious automobiles for the royal and wealthy men and women all around the planet. He would go on to build the Bugatti Royale Type 41 Kellner Coupe; what the London Telegraph has dubbed, “The grandest of all luxury cars.” During a time of great financial hardship, however, very few could afford such a high-priced vehicle so only six were ever produced.

Today, because this vehicle is so very rare, it is one of the most expensive cars in the world. In 2016 an original Bugatti Royale Type 41 Kellner Coupe is valued at a staggering $20.2 million dollars! Imagine paying the car note on that purchase! According to the U.S. Government’s CPI Inflation Calculator, in 1930 that would be the equivalent to $286 million dollars! Why could a car made of metal, rubber, and glass be worth so much? Because it is the only one of its kind in existence. Let that sink in.

Dear reader, do you understand that because of your decisions, failures, and successes that make up your character and personality that you are the only you that will ever exist? Before God and all of the world, you are the only one of your kind in existence. That means that it is impossible to calculate your worth. Your value to God is absolutely immeasurable. In fact, God values you so much, that He willingly gave all of heaven just for you. Yet there is more;

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 NIV)

You are so loved and valued of God, my friend. A loving God that is not only willing to give everything up for you, but a loving God who is also able to give you all things. Not because of anything special that you have done; but simply because He loves you, and values you above all things.

With such a value and love placed on you and I by God, we must respond. In what ways in your life are you not allowing God into to your heart so that He can show you the love and value that He has for you? What walls have been raised where God wants access? If you wish to surrender that area of your life and heart to God now, simply pray with me, “Father God, take me as wholly yours. Forgive me for my sins, and keep me as your own. I surrender my will, and ask that you make it your own. In Jesus’ name, amen.”


Greg Wilson is the SALT Program Coordinator. Greg has been involved in literature evangelism, public evangelism and young adult ministries. SALT is It Is Written’s School of Evangelism. Learn more at itiswritten.com/salt

Easier Than You Think—Sharing your faith doesn’t have to be difficult!

lightstock_74946_full_michael_prewitt

There are times when you hear people talk about witnessing as though it’s an advanced science. Quantum mechanics. Theoretical physics.

But then you hear every day, real world, true life examples of how it actually works, and you realize again that—yes—sharing your faith is something everyone can do. Successfully.

Pastor Chris Buttery, Senior Pastor of the Sacramento Central Church in Sacramento, California, recently told me a truly magnificent story. Central Church is a congregation that emphasizes sharing the gospel with others, being involved in letting people know the good news about Jesus and His word. Pastor Chris told me about one church member who has taken that emphasis seriously.

Margaret* volunteers at a local food bank, and encouraged by Central’s “Each One, Reach One” emphasis decided she would invite Ray* to attend church with her. Ray accepted the invitation, came to church at Central, enjoyed the experience, returned, got involved in Bible studies… and was recently baptized.

Margaret doesn’t have a degree in religion and has never been formally taught how to share her faith. But Margaret has several things going for her. One, she loves God. Two, she recognizes people need to know the good news of the gospel. Three, Margaret prayed that Ray would accept her invitation and trusted God’s Spirit would work in his heart. And four, Margaret believes in the mission of the church. As she told Pastor Chris the day of Ray’s baptism, “Pastor, this is my ‘Each One, Reach One!’”

There are some simple principles to follow when it comes to sharing your faith, and Margaret understands them. It’s important to mingle with people and let them know you genuinely care about them. As a volunteer in a community service organization, Margaret is spending time regularly with people not of her faith and is getting to know them. She is what Jesus described in Matthew 5:13 as “the salt of the earth.”

It’s also important to minister to the needs of others and in so doing win their confidence. Far too many people only manage to convince their neighbors or associates that religion makes you strange or unapproachable. It’s necessary to let your love for God build bridges and not walls. Margaret invested her time into the people she volunteered with, showing them she had a faith worth having. Then Ray felt it was worth investing in also

Also it’s important that at some time an invitation is given. Too many people have the idea that the very best thing to do is just live your Christian life before others without saying much of anything about what it represents, and then wait for people to ask you what it is that makes you so wonderful. But without investing in people, without ministering to their needs, without winning their confidence and acquainting them with the reality of your faith, it is far less likely that an individual is ever going to seek you out and enquire about your personal belief system. Without some type of personal investment it is more likely others will think you’re little more than quirky or odd. There really needs to be an element of intentionality about sharing one’s faith in God. And part of that is to intentionally (and graciously) ask people to take some sort of step. To attend a meeting or a church service, to read a book or a tract, or to watch a DVD or television program. Ask around: a lot of people will tell you they’d have never attended church if someone hadn’t asked them to do so.

And when those simple steps are taken, the results are always magnificent. No, not everyone you reach out to will become a disciple of Jesus Christ, but they’ll be given an opportunity to know who He is, what He is like, and to make a decision based on good information shared with them by a trusted friend.

That’s what happened with Ray, now an active member of a local church congregation, and very grateful for his friend Margaret.

Who happens to be—by the way—almost ninety years old.


*Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

“We’re Getting to That Age…”

Slider-Getting to that Age

A friend of mine messaged me. “We’re getting to that age.” And apparently we are.

I haven’t had many close friends die. I’m still too young, thankfully. But that seems to be changing.

While my next oldest brother lost a gaggle of friends in car accidents while he was still a teenager, I didn’t. One elementary school friend died in a car crash after our paths had long diverged, and a high school classmate I didn’t really have anything to do with died in a wreck just after he left school. And while that’s obviously tragic on many levels, I hadn’t really ever lost a close friend.

While I was overseas on a speaking appointment, someone suggested I visit Gavin*, in hospital for what I was told was something chronic but not terribly serious. I traveled miles out of my way to try to see my old friend, a groomsman in my wedding, who for years had been involved in various facets of ministry. After scouring one hospital, I was told he’d been transferred to another, where I was directed to the twelfth floor—the neurological ward. Huh?

I hadn’t seen my friend in nearly 20 years, but recognizing his brother—whom I’d never met—I knew I was in the right place. When I saw Gavin, he was in a coma. I spoke his name and he opened his eyes and looked into mine.

He never came out of the coma, and died a week later. 

Those 20 years have passed by in a flash. How was it we never kept in touch? Thankfully, we’ll have eternity for that.

I wish I could have been at the funeral.

I was standing in a parking lot outside a hotel in Orlando when I received a call from an old friend and former colleague. She got to the point right away. “Breast cancer.” While her dark humor was in part a mask for her anxiety, it was mostly a reflection of her confidence. She expected cancer to be tough but had no doubt she’d come through.

Except she didn’t.

Ten days later, an email from a friend of hers said the cancer had spread just about everywhere and that this would be a difficult journey. Nature took its course. Treatment only delayed the inevitable.

She had success in her career, then a career change, a daughter, various ups and downs. We both had been raised in the same denomination. She had what appeared to be an uneasy peace with God. And now she’s gone.

I wish I could have been at the funeral.

JB and friend

Simon* and myself around 10 years old at a rugby league park.

A couple of days ago I received a brief message from a close friend. “I don’t know if you heard Simon* has passed away.” 

What?!

I hadn’t seen Simon in at least 30 years, but in our first couple of years of high school we were as close as two friends could be. We spent enormous amounts of time together—too much, according to my school attendance reports. We went through a lot of the typical and many of the regrettable teenage rites of passage together. For several years he was as close a friend as I had.

I was told it was either a massive heart attack or a stroke. At his age? Photos taken at a high school reunion showed that 30 years later he still looked fit and well, and had the same baby face.

I remember him telling me that as a kid he prayed that God—if He was real—would cause a Yamaha trail bike (a TT 250) to appear in his bedroom when he opened his eyes. He drove too fast, smoked too much, and laughed a lot. I always imagined I’d bump into him one day, somewhere, sooner or later. Surely.

My friend was right. My group is getting to that age. If you’ve walked this far along the road then you know how it feels when your friends start dying.  Life really isn’t a game. It’s one thing when someone’s grandma dies. It’s another when you start losing friends thirty-five-plus years short of the average life expectancy.

And what of eternity? As Shakespeare wrote, ah, there’s the rub. Consider that—and one must—and one’s meditations take on a solemn tone.

Life and death. Big questions. Now being asked of my generation with uncomfortable regularity.

Another friend gone. The photo I saw a few days ago showed him looking implausibly young, but graying at his temples. On the table in front of him was a packet of cigarettes—the warning message clearly visible—and a bottle of beer. I don’t know the circumstances, but it looked as though this was yet another unnecessary, avoidable death. A life cut way too short. There was still plenty of daylight between him and 50.

I wish I could be there for the funeral.


 *Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

Opportunity Lost

Slider-Opportunity Lost

An interesting story emerged as a sideline to the recent Super Bowl 50 football game played between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos. 

John Elway, now Denver’s General Manager and the winner of two Super Bowls as a player with Denver, was once made an extremely generous offer by the majority owner of the franchise.

In 1998, Pat Bowlen offered Elway the chance to buy 10 percent of the Broncos for $15 million. Additionally, Elway was offered a further 10 percent of the organization for foregoing $21 million of deferred salary.

It was a no-lose deal. Even if Elway decided to sell his share of the Broncos at a later time the Broncos would buy it back for $5 million more than he paid, plus 8 percent interest per year. And to sweeten the deal, John Elway would have the first right of refusal to buy more of the team should the Bowlen family choose to sell.

$36 million—$15 million of it cash—for 20 percent of a successful professional football franchise. Elway, as a successful player and investor, had the money to do the deal.

Today, Elway’s stake in the team would be worth $388 million. Except that it is not his.

Elway didn’t do the deal.

The opportunity of a lifetime—from a football/business point of view—went begging. And as sure as night follows day, it won’t come around again. Today, John Elway is a paid employee of the Broncos organization, and not an owner.

I’m certain Elway isn’t asking anyone to pity him. Financially he’s in a very sound position and one would assume happy with the way his career has played out. But the story reminds us that there are opportunities you really don’t want to waste. And never is that more true than when dealing with your spiritual life.

There are a couple of accounts in the Bible that make the point crystal clear.

In Matthew 19, a young man asks Jesus a deep question: “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16).

The question itself betrays an unfortunate misunderstanding of both the plan of salvation and the character of God. Salvation isn’t granted according to anything we ‘do’, like a pay check is earned after a hard day’s work. Yet Jesus opted to meet the man on his own ground, and answered by listing a number of the ten commandments, saying, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (verse 17).

The commandments Jesus mentioned were from the second division of the ten commandments, which deals with a person’s relationship to other people. Yet Jesus chose not to mention the tenth commandment, the one which deals with coveting. Jesus was hoping to awaken the man’s thinking, to help him realize he had an issue with covetousness. 

He pressed on. “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” This was a bridge too far for the rich young ruler. Considering his goods to be his gods, he turned away from Jesus and spurned the opportunity of a lifetime.

It was a simple proposition. “Get your priorities right and you’ll be standing on spiritually solid ground. But considering anything to be more important than God is spiritually disastrous.” 

Easy enough? In theory. But covetousness is so strong an allurement, self-interest so intoxicating, that the young man compared everlasting life with his possessions and figured his possessions were a better deal. Madness? Of the worst kind. Jesus offered him everything. He chose instead what amounted to be nothing.

In Acts 26, the apostle Paul stands before a young king named Agrippa and recounted his Damascus Road experience. Appealing to Agrippa’s heart for the sake of the cross, Paul asks, “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets?” Knowing of Agrippa’s familiarity with the Scriptures and the conviction he was under, Paul didn’t even wait for an answer from the Jewish king. “I know that you do believe,” he asserted (Acts 26:27).

Agrippa was moved, but in his moment of opportunity hardened his heart instead of choosing to yield to God’s drawing. He answered, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian” (verse 28).

Almost persuaded. The 18th Century hymn writer Philip Paul Bliss (who also wrote the tune to ‘It Is Well With My Soul’) wrote a hymn by that name. The final verse is as sober a verse as you’re ever likely to hear:

Almost persuaded, harvest is past!

Almost persuaded, doom comes at last!

Almost cannot avail;

Almost is but to fail!

Sad, sad, that bitter wail

Almost, but lost!

In the grand scheme of things, it matters nothing that John Elway didn’t buy a share of a football team. But to miss out on the greatest deal of all time—your heart handed over to God, Jesus’ own righteousness and the gift of eternal life given to you—will matter for all time.

God makes it so simple. Make room for Him in your life now and He’ll make room for you in His plans for eternity.

It’s a no-lose deal.

Nunuku’s Law

John Bradshaw with Moriori tree carvings hundreds of years old.

John Bradshaw with Moriori tree carvings hundreds of years old.

 

This year on Martin Luther King Junior Day I found myself on a small island few people ever visit, a place I never imagined I’d ever go. But given the day, there’s no place I would rather have been.

500 miles east of the South Island of New Zealand, Chatham Island—a third of the size of the state of Rhode Island—is the home of 80,000 sheep and cattle, and 600 people. It is also the site of one of history’s most remarkable demonstrations in favor of peace.

Hundreds of years ago the Moriori people arrived by canoe from Eastern Polynesia to become the indigenous people of an island they named Rekohu meaning “Misty Sun”—an allusion to the weather commonly experienced there. Guided by principles of non-violence, they established a peaceful society committed to harmonious living. When an influential islander named Nunuku witnessed fighting among a group of young men, he urged the establishment of a peace covenant which became the bedrock of Moriori culture. For centuries the Moriori lived under this covenant of peace. They couldn’t possibly have imagined that their commitment to peace would one day be tested in the severest way imaginable.

In 1835, groups from two Maori tribes (the indigenous people of mainland New Zealand) arrived by ship on Chatham Island. The Moriori welcomed the visitors and helped them back to health after their wearying journey. They went so far as to offer the visitors a home and a share some of the island’s resources. But the visitors weren’t interested in sharing the island. They were there to take it.

Recognizing their danger, the Moriori convened a council and discussed their options. Some urged they fight and resist the Maori and defend their society and culture, while others favored adhering to Nunuku’s Law, which for centuries had defined who the Moriori were as a people.

Ultimately the decision was made. Nunuku’s Law would be honored. The 2,000 Moriori would not defend themselves against the 900 Maori invaders—whatever the cost.

The Moriori were massacred. Hundreds were murdered, many were eaten (cannibalism was still practiced by some Maori in the 1830s), and many more were enslaved. By the 1860s, there were only 101 Moriori left alive.

In spite of the slaughter, the Moriori might well have reestablished their society had not the English justice system completed what the Maori invaders began. Appealing to then Governor George Grey, the surviving Moriori were confident justice would turn back the tide of violence and brutality and allow them to remake their devastated society. Their confidence in the English justice system proved to be misplaced.

There is a carved center pole in the meeting house at Kopinga Marae on Rekohu/Chatham Island that is inscribed with the names of the hundreds who perished during and as a result of the invasion. It is a powerful reminder of a bold stand taken by a people who placed a commitment to peace above a commitment to their own wellbeing.

Familiar story?

The story of the cross is the story of a Savior who could have fought for Himself, but chose instead to die for a cause He considered greater than that of His own existence.

“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).

Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life so that those who came after him could experience the freedom promised them in the Constitution.

Mohandas Gandhi chose a path that led to death so that others might experience a more meaningful life.

The Moriori of New Zealand’s Rekohu/Chatham Island laid down their lives because they believed in peace and non-violence.

As foolhardy as it is to fail to learn from these remarkable, heroic, historic figures, to fail to learn the myriad lessons of the cross is infinitely more so. To shun the cross and its privileges today would be akin to choosing slavery or opting for oppressive colonialism. To close our hearts to the gift given us at Calvary would be to consign ourselves to an eternity devoid of hope.

The Moriori died because they valued peace, and through their example offer an opportunity for humankind to choose peace in this world.

Jesus—the Prince of Peace—died to offer humankind the opportunity to know peace for eternity.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day means a lot to me. This year it meant even more.

P.S. Watch for the upcoming It Is Written program, “Nunuku’s Law,” filmed on location in New Zealand’s Chatham Islands.

A specially carved pole in the Moroni meeting house on Chatham Island is inscribed with the names of the victims of the 19th Century massacre.

A specially carved pole in the Moroni meeting house on Chatham Island is inscribed with the names of the victims of the 19th Century massacre.