Achieving Greatness

Slider-Achieving Greatness a

Adam Ramdin is a pastor and the Youth Director of the North England Conference, based in Nottingham, Great Britain.

Most players would be happy with just one. Some of the best players ever will get a handful. Some of the greatest players to grace the world stage will get to double digits. The most ever won by a male is 17[1. Switzerland’s Roger Federer has won 17 Grand Slam singles titles.], while two women have both won 22.

At the US Tennis Open in Flushing Meadow, New York in September, the talk was whether Serena Williams would win again, to take her to 23 Grand Slam titles. Although her loss in the semi-finals left her tied with German Steffi Graf, most observers believe it’s a matter of when and not if the 35 year old Williams will win title number 23.

When someone who is such a prolific winner comes along, sports watchers have the chance to witness a living legend. Inevitably the question is raised: was Serena Williams simply born a good tennis player? Does she have a natural advantage over others that makes her better than everyone else?

Whilst many subscribe to the theory of a natural born sportmans/genius, others do not. In his 2011 book, Bounce—in which he studied sportspeople such as golfer Tiger Woods, as well as Serena Williams and her tennis-playing sister, Venus—author and former Olympian Matthew Syed concluded that there is no such thing as a naturally gifted sportsman. Syed proposed the “10,000 Hour Rule.” That is, in order to become an expert a person must do something for a total of at least ten thousand hours. 

As young girls, the Williams sisters would spend hour after hour on the concrete courts of Compton, California, honing their skills under the tutelage of their father. With no experience in coaching and without modern equipment, Richard Williams would bring a shopping cart filled with tennis balls to practice. In one training exercise, Williams would place a traffic cone on one side of the tennis court and have his daughters repeatedly hit tennis balls at the cone. With a baseball bat.

Such dedication to a particular task will inevitably produce good results. But doing something again and again, for hours and hours is not in itself enough to produce excellence. For example, many people driven a car a total of ten thousand, twenty thousand or even thirty thousand hours but have become worse instead of better at driving. There is a difference between intentional practice and doing something on autopilot. 

While the theory regarding how excellence is produced holds true in many cases, it falls short in explaining Christian growth. While God gives talents and opportunities, believers have a responsibility to use their talents in order to multiply them.

Many people who have gone to church for longer than 10,000 hours don’t become spiritual experts. That is, they don’t experience corresponding spiritual growth. That’s because there is a difference between treating church attendance and spiritual things as if we are driving a car on autopilot and intentionally seeking to grow in faith in Christ.

Do we actively pray that the fruit of the Spirt will be seen in our lives? Are we intentionally trying to reach out to people who are less fortunate than us? Are we endeavoring to show love, kindness and respect to people we don’t know?

Too many people spend their Christian life on cruise control, calling themselves Christian but not living an intentional life. Make it a goal that you will actively seek to be a true follower of Jesus in thought, word and deed.

Desmond Doss and Hacksaw Ridge: Coming Soon

slider - Doss coming soon copy

More than 70 years ago an unlikely hero saved the lives of dozens of American soldiers during one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. Now his story is about to explode onto movie screens all over the world.

The international press is already hailing Hacksaw Ridge as a potential Oscar winner.

It tells the story of Corporal Desmond Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist combat medic who single-handedly rescued 75 soldiers during the battle of Okinawa, in the midst of a hail of enemy gunfire. As a result of his bravery, Desmond Doss was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the United States’ highest military honor.

While Doss’ story has been told many times, Hacksaw Ridge is the first feature film to recount his remarkable exploits. The movie is directed by Hollywood heavyweight Mel Gibson who, having fallen foul of Hollywood and the media on numerous occasions, “may finally have found redemption” according to critics.  David Rooney of the Hollywood Reporter has called the film a “forceful comeback,” while London’s Telegraph newspaper gave the movie a four-star rating. Hacksaw Ridge received a 10 minute standing ovation following its premiere at the Venice Film Festival.

What this means is simply this: it looks like Hacksaw Ridge is going to be huge.

And that matters for Christians, because it now seems likely that millions of people are going to watch the powerfully-told story of a war hero who was a deeply committed believer.  And they’ll learn about—and talk about—not only his deeply-held biblical beliefs but also the remarkable God who enabled Doss to carry himself with such outstanding grace, commitment, and bravery.

Hacksaw Ridge neither downplays Desmond Doss’ Seventh-day Adventist faith nor minimizes his beliefs. Instead, the movie respectfully and accurately portrays Doss’ steadfast faith in God. Corporal Doss—a Private First Class at the time of the Battle of Okinawa—is presented as a balanced, Sabbath-keeping, Bible-believing Christian who was moved by faith in God to adhere to his biblical beliefs in the face of overwhelming opposition. Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge is an inspirational story of a Christian’s unwavering faith.

You don’t have to approve of movies, Hollywood, or Mel Gibson’s liberal use of battlefield violence, to be enthusiastic about the retelling of the Desmond Doss story. Hacksaw Ridge presents believers in Christ with an unprecedented opportunity to speak up for Christ as the story of an Adventist Christian thrusts the faith community into the national—and international—conversation.  Hollywood is presenting Christians everywhere with a multimillion dollar opportunity to come along behind this headline-grabbing movie and speak in favor of the God—and the faith—of Desmond Doss.

Churches and church members will need to be ready to engage in conversations with those who watch Hacksaw Ridge, and be prepared to answer questions about what drove Desmond Doss to be steadfast in his faith in God. For a window of time, Desmond Doss will be part of the global conversation. Believers should be ready to participate in the conversation and provide answers to the inevitable questions. 

To assist with the witnessing opportunities presented by Hacksaw Ridge, It Is Written has produced a low-cost, 32 page booklet entitled “The Faith of Desmond Doss,” which can be ordered from It Is Written for witnessing and mass distribution. See below for details.

In one of the later scenes of the movie, Desmond Doss’ character—played by Andrew Garfield, one of Hollywood’s leading actors—is doing all he can to save American servicemen. After lowering a soldier to safety, Doss prays, “Lord, give me one more!” Each time he lowers another soldier to safety the prayer is repeated: “Lord, give me one more!”

Desmond Doss’ prayer is the prayer that should be prayed by Christians everywhere. “Lord, give me one more. Help me get one more!” As the last few sands pass through the hourglass of time, precious opportunities are being presented to reach this world for Christ. While Hacksaw Ridge is not intended to be an evangelism tool, disciples of Christ recognize that witnessing opportunities present themselves in countless ways. Even through Hollywood blockbusters.

It’s hard to imagine God has not allowed the production of Hacksaw Ridge specifically for such a time as this, not to glorify Hollywood or Desmond Doss, but to call attention to theme of faith and grace.

Desmond Doss now rests beneath a simple grave marker in the Chattanooga National Cemetery in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Ten years after his death Hollywood is telling the story of his battlefield heroism. It’s up to those of us still living to tell the story of his Savior, the power of grace and the promise of Jesus’ return.

The Faith of Desmond Doss Sharing Book

The Faith of Desmond Doss not only tells Desmond’s incredible story, but more importantly, it tells the reader about his faith. Desmond refused to carry a gun, but that doesn’t mean he went into battle unarmed. He faced combat with two things more valuable than any man-made weapon—his Bible and prayer. The message of this small book is that through Bible study and prayer, anyone can develop a relationship with God, and achieve greater faith.

Click here to order!Faith of Desmond Doss 3D from right (2)

For more Hacksaw Ridge resources click here. 

Colin Kaepernick, Protest and Progress

One thing that we’ve learned in recent weeks is that Colin Kaepernick still plays professional football.  Having made little impact in the national game for the best part of two seasons, Kaepernick, 28, made the news recently for choosing not to stand during the playing of the national anthem at a San Francisco 49ers pre-season game.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said.  “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Standing during the national anthem is not compulsory for NFL players.  In response to Kaepernick’s protest the National Football League said, “We recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”

Predictably, response to Kaepernick’s gesture was not unanimously positive.  Many were quick to condemn Kaepernick – a one-time standout who will start the football season as the 49ers backup quarterback – for being unpatriotic and disrespectful.  Sportswriter Peter King reported that a sign at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego last Thursday night read, “YOU’RE AN AMERICAN ACT LIKE ONE.”[1. “Freedom of expression, I’d like you to meet freedom of expression…”]

Kaepernick, sensitive to the feelings of American service personnel, modified his stance by taking a knee during the anthem in the 49ers final preseason game.  And he has announced he would donate the first million dollars of his $11.9 million dollar salary this year to community groups or charities.

Colin Kaepernick isn’t the first person – or the first sportsperson – to protest what he sees as civil rights abuses against people of color.  His protest is reminiscent of that of Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the gold and bronze medal-winning athletes in the mens’ 200 meters track event at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games.  Smith later described the raising of their black-gloved fists during the medal ceremony as a “human rights salute.”[2. Australian Peter Norman, who won the silver medal in the event, wore a human rights badge during the medal ceremony in solidarity with Smith and Carlos.  Smith and Carlos were pallbearers at Norman’s funeral in Melbourne in 2006.]  Smith and Carlos were expelled from the Mexico City Olympics at the urging of then IOC President Avery Brundage, and against the wishes of the US Olympic Committee.  Upon their return home, both athletes were subjected to intense criticism.[3. Interestingly, history has been kind to Smith and Carlos.  They were honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at 2008 Espys, and their stance in 1968 is now respected and appreciated seemingly by the vast majority of Americans.]

One need not agree with a particular protest to recognize demonstration often shines a light on a society’s ills.  Without the protests led by Mohandas Gandhi, independence would not have come to India as soon as it did.  Cesar Chavez’ work on behalf of farm workers changed the agricultural and social landscape in this country.  Dr Martin Luther King’s contribution to the advancement of civil rights in the 1960s was responsible for…

Well, let’s stop and consider that.  In an age where Americans are asking themselves whether Black Lives Matter, it can be admitted that Dr King moved America’s disastrous civil rights situation out of the darkness and into the shadows.  If the protests of Dr King and the thousands of others who stood, marched, sat and occupied with him had truly been successful, Colin Kaepernick’s jersey wouldn’t currently be the best-selling jersey in the NFL.  Kaepernick would be just another well-paid has-been hoping for another shot at glory.

Are protests successful?  Sometimes they are.  Half a century after the racist Governor George Wallace stood in the doorway of Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama, 4500 African American students are enrolled at the school.  But sometimes protests result in little true progress.  Since Gandhi’s death in 1948, now-independent India is wracked with poverty, caste violence, religious tension and territorial disputes.  Numerous Indian politicians have been assassinated, including former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her son, Rajiv who succeeded her as India’s political leader.

There’s a reason protests infrequently lead to lasting change.  Protest cannot change the human heart.  That’s not to say there isn’t a place for protest.  But it is to say that the only force that can bring real change to the human heart is the gentle yet powerful force of the Spirit of God.

From his prison cell, John the Baptist sent disciples to ask Jesus a remarkable question.

“Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?”

Not long before, John the Baptist had looked towards Jesus and boldly proclaimed, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  (John 1:29)  John was convinced.  Jesus was the Messiah.  John had said he was unworthy of loosening the strap of Jesus’ sandal.  He knew Jesus well: his mother and Jesus’ mother were sisters.  Jesus was his cousin!  And now John calls into question the validity of a ministry he once whole-heartedly endorsed.

John had expected the Messiah to expel the hated Romans from Israel, and bring freedom and prosperity to the Jewish nation.  But Jesus was urging people to reach for a different kind of greatness, and by methods altogether different from those contemplated by John.

Jesus’ response to the disciples of John was fascinating. 

“Go and tell John the things which you hear and see.”  (Matthew 11:4)

And what was it they had heard and seen?

“The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”  (Matthew 11:5)

While Jesus was by any measure the greatest counter-cultural revolutionary who ever lived, He realized the kingdom of God could only be established upon changed hearts.  He could have urged protest and demonstration, but the lasting change he sought to make would be effected one life at a time, one medical missionary visit at a time, one personal encounter at a time.  Souls would be won one study at a time, one tract at a time, one sermon at a time, and – most importantly – one revelation of the character of God at a time.

Whether Colin Kaepernick sits, kneels or stands during the national anthem is entirely up to him.  An American’s right to express his or her opinion in a lawful manner is enshrined in the Constitution.  But Kaepernick’s protest isn’t going to change much on the American landscape. Some will be offended, others will celebrate, some will pause to reflect, most will not.  Placards and picket lines and gloved fists and sitting football players definitely have their place in an open society.  But protest – even needful protest – only brings incremental change at best because protest doesn’t change the heart.  Agree with him or not, Kaepernick is standing – or not standing, as is the case – for what he believes.  He wants to see change.  But he isn’t likely to see it.  Not in a sinful world.  Because real change only happens when hearts are softened and transformed by the Spirit of the living God.[4. It should be pointed out that the validity of Kaepernick’s protest does not depend on whether or not his protest results in change on any level.  The “success” of a protest and the validity of a protest do not necessarily correlate.]

Before Jesus returns, God’s people are going to reveal to the world the beauty of the character of Christ.  And they’ll do so by demonstrating to the world – one person at a time – the inarguable reality that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, and that the God of heaven is love.

Mission:Mongolia—Jesus Loves the Little Children

But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).

As a father I’ve often tried to visualize the touching image of parents bringing their children to Jesus to be blessed. Well, I don’t have to visualize it anymore, because our team of medical and dental professionals experienced it firsthand this week. Parents and even grandparents streamed into our five clinics with their children and grandchildren to have them “blessed” by the foreign Christian doctors and dentists.

Most of these children’s health ailments were minor, but in a country where health care to the poor is limited, these ailments can become much more serious. With much compassion in their hearts, our practitioners examined each child carefully, explaining to the concerned parent or grandparent what was happening, and what continuing care the child would need. Before the visit was up, just like Jesus, they laid their hands on each child and prayed. In many cases the guardian would tear up and then leave with a big broad smile. Truly a moving sight.

One of our clinics is located right next door to practicing shamanists. Shamanists believe in the world of good and evil spirits and practice divination and healing. Yes, kind of spooky. Well, even these interesting neighbors brought their children to the clinic. There, they were introduced to the love of Jesus through the kindness and warmth of our clinicians. Who knows what will happen next with this family and all the others that came to our clinics, but I’m a firm believer that a great way to a person’s heart is through their children.

Keep praying for the people of Mongolia that more and more of them will accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.


















Mission:Mongolia—The God of Daniel chapter 2

The God of Daniel chapter 2 is alive and well in Mongolia!

Some of the drivers transporting the It Is Written volunteers to their work sites are non-Christian. That’s the case for Orgil, the driver for the team going to the orphanage. If you think this name looks hard to pronounce, trust me, it’s even harder when you hear a Mongolian say it with all throat sounds involved. Consequently, our young volunteers decided to give Orgil an English name: Liam. Our driver loves the name and tells everyone now that his name is Liam. Liam, who speaks a fair bit of English, has connected so well with the group that he has become more than just a driver, he’s become a helper and translator at the orphanage.

In the evening, the orphanage group attends the It Is Written Bible meetings at one of the churches. Of course Liam drives them there and instead of simply waiting in the van, he himself has started attending the meetings to the delight of everyone. Yesterday, Liam made a startling admission to one of the volunteers. He explained that a few weeks ago he had a dream that he thought nothing of at the time. In that dream he said that a group of people would give him a new name, an English-sounding name. In that dream he also saw the very logo that It Is Written uses. Wow! If that doesn’t give you chills?! The God of Daniel chapter 2 who powerfully revealed the future in a dream is at work in the life of a young man in Mongolia.

Please pray for Liam as we prayerfully continue to witness to him. One of our other drivers is also becoming very interested in what we are teaching from the Bible. We thought we came to minister to the poor, sick, and destitute of Mongolia, but maybe we actually came to minister to our drivers. God is good.


One of our volunteers Jamey, left, with Liam.

Mission:Mongolia August 2016

This was supposed to be just another typical Mission:Mongolia trip. We planned for about 30 volunteer health professionals, working in three locations. God had other plans. We are now in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, with 66 volunteers who have traveled from the United States, Malaysia, Canada, and Switzerland—working in six locations! Amazing! Four of the locations are church sites in areas of the city of Ulaanbaatar where health needs are great. The fifth location is in an abandoned schoolhouse in a part of the city where local people simply shake their heads when asked about it—it’s where the poorest of the poor live. The last location is an orphanage where the younger members of our volunteer group are doing a children’s program.

Sunday was our first day of action. The team dealt with the expected push-back from the enemy of God, whose desire is our failure. But by God’s grace and power, the first day’s challenges were overcome and everyone returned to the hotel with a tired smile on their face. My favorite part of the day is the evening when I get to listen to everyone’s stories.

One story that particularly sticks in my mind is about how one of our physicians literally saved a little girl’s life. This little girl came in with her grandmother because she could not hear well from one ear. The doctor who saw her happened to be an ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor), and after a close look discovered a tumor beside her eardrum. He recognized it as a of rare tumor called cholesteatoma—and if left untreated will lead to meningitis and eventual death probably within a year. The grandmother, diagnosis in hand, was thus directed to immediately take the girl to the city hospital for the appropriate life-saving procedure.

Everyone who visited our clinics was invited to our evening meetings that included wonderful music, a children’s story, health messages, and Jesus talks. It was a very long but great day for all. We can’t wait to see what blessings God has in store for us today!





The Church has Stopped Being the Church


On a cool April evening in Edinburgh, Scotland, I stood with a group of onlookers waiting patiently for a glimpse of Prince Charles, who was in the historic city attending a government function at St. Giles Cathedral. While doing my best to keep warm as the temperatures steadily edged downward, I struck up a conversation with a genial, gentle-looking local, who appeared to be in his early forties. There had recently been elections in Scotland and he told me he worked in Edinburgh, for the Scottish electoral commission.

Seeing as we were standing outside a cathedral, it wasn’t surprising that our conversation switched quickly to religious themes. I mentioned the plummeting membership numbers in the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, and asked him what he thought the reason was[1.In the second half of the twentieth century, church attendance in the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland dropped by well over 50 percent. Between 2010 and 2013 alone, membership dropped by 7.5 percent.].

Religion has played an enormous role in Scotland’s history. Protestants battled against the teachings and authority of the Roman Catholic Church, and the church fought back with a vengeance. Martyrs perished within view of where I was standing. The great reformer, John Knox, born and raised just 40 miles east of Edinburgh—denounced the Queen of Scotland, railed against the unbiblical teachings of the Catholic Church and literally pounded the pulpit just meters away from where I was standing. Knox identified the Roman Catholic papacy as the antichrist of Bible prophecy and advocated that the Bible be the sole rule of faith and practice for Christian believers. Yet today only 50 percent of Scots even identify as Christian. Scotland is now a profoundly secular country.

I asked this stranger why he thought that was. His answer was straight forward.

“The church has stopped being the church.”

I asked him to elaborate.

“In the past, the church upheld the Bible,” he explained. “The church was unapologetic that the Bible was the Word of God and that people were to be guided by its teachings.”

“But now?” I asked him.

He pushed his glasses back up to the bridge of his nose before answering.

“Today, the church is more concerned with social matters. What the Bible says and how the Word of God applies to our lives and how people ought to live…  It’s just not what the church majors in now.”

And what he said next really struck me.

“In trying to reach secular people, the church has itself become more secular.”

“But shouldn’t the church be trying to reach the lost?” I countered. “Shouldn’t methods change when society has changed so much?”

“Yes, of course,” he shot back. “No question. But the church no longer has a distinct, biblical voice. In trying to reach the world it has become like the world. It no longer stands for anything. The church has stopped being the church.”

The church has stopped being the church…”

As we talked it became apparent he was much less interested in seeing Prince Charles than was I. It turned out he was a Christian who attended a church not far from where we were standing. He described it as a church with a biblical focus, not extraordinarily well attended, but passionate about the Bible and fervent in faith in God.

We discussed methodology, and recognized together the challenge of reaching the varied minds of our complex, secular world. This man—whose name I never learned—acknowledged that the church needs to stay relevant in a changing world, but made what I thought was another important point.

“There’s nothing more relevant than the Word of God,” he said. “And when the church deviates from that, and waters down the Bible’s teachings, and abandons the Bible’s plainest statements because it wants to appeal more to the world… Well, look at what has happened in Scotland.”

I made notes about our conversation as soon as he moved along. I didn’t want to forget what he had said to me. I reflected on what he told me, and I had to conclude that he was right.  In Scotland, and in many other places, the church has stopped being the church. And when it does that, it consigns itself to irrelevance and impotence.

It’s true that when it comes to sharing the gospel, Scotland is a difficult territory—like the rest of Britain and the rest of Europe. And the rest of the modern world. And… But winning souls isn’t easy work and never has been. It wasn’t easy in the times of the early church, and with the devil at the top of his game, it shouldn’t be expected that it would be today. Yet it ought to be remembered that God hasn’t called the church to numerical success. He has called the church to faithfulness, and He has promised that as His people are faithful, “this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14).

E.M. Bounds wrote years ago, “The church is looking for better methods. God is looking for better men.” And while today we’d express that sentiment in slightly different language, Bounds’ words hold true. We live in a world where people are distracted by so many things, many of them good. In much of our world, the Bible isn’t the go-to place for guidance about life. Jesus’ words aren’t the default standard for society. We’re in a serious battle with a skilled enemy for the souls of Earth’s inhabitants.

But if we’re going to see God’s work done, the church cannot stop being the church. The Bible is still the answer to the challenges facing our world. It is as relevant now as it has ever been. The teachings of Jesus still provide the only logical understanding of where we come from, why we are here, and where we are going. There is still power in the Word of God. If the church compromises that, “Well, look at what has happened in Scotland.”

The police controlling the crowd were extremely good-natured and bantered with the locals and tourists who were gathered. Prince Charles soon emerged from an imposing stone building and climbed into a waiting limousine. As the car drove away, Prince Charles looked at me and waved! I’ll remember that.

But what I’ll remember most is the words of the amiable stranger who stood with me in the crowd and said some of the most important words a minister of the gospel might ever reflect on.

“The church has stopped being the church.”

Knock and It Shall Be Opened

Slider-Knock - no click

Before Jesus left the Earth, He commissioned His disciples to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The church’s God-given mission is clear: Evangelism. Of course, evangelism takes on myriad forms. The definition of evangelism I receive when I googled the term was, “the spreading of the Christian gospel by public preaching or personal witness.”

The word “evangelism” used today comes from a Greek word meaning “messenger”—the same Greek word from which we get the word “angel.” An “evangelist” in ancient times was a messenger who brought a message of victory or of some other political of personal message that brought joy. Looking at it through that lens, the meaning of our modern word evangelism becomes clear—and attractive.

I’ve asked many groups what they think are the main reasons that more people don’t share their faith. The two main reasons I’ve heard over the years are, that many believers don’t feel as though they know enough to be able to confidently share with others, and—perhaps more significantly—the fear of rejection.

Nobody enjoys having someone reject what they have to say. But it’s worth knowing that there are plenty of people in your neighborhood who are willing to say “yes” rather than “no” to an invitation to know more about the Christ of the Bible.

Keeping in mind the “myriad forms” of evangelism that exist—not only public preaching but also personal witness—It Is Written teams have been blessed recently to see that there are still many people who are willing to study the Word of God.

A recent It Is Written evangelism emphasis event—called Spark—in Arden, North Carolina, resulted in dozens of people in the local community requesting Bible studies. It Is Written Associate Speaker Eric Flickinger shared with church members about the difference one person can make in sharing Jesus with others. After It Is Written’s Spark training and the church service, more than 30 church members were trained specifically how to reach the community through door-to-door work. After dividing into teams they went into the community to practice what they had just learned. When they returned, they had exciting stories to tell.

Kathy was amazed and encouraged that after only half an hour of door-knocking she had visited six homes and come away with four Bible studies. With an enormous smile on her face, she exclaimed, “I’m hooked! Can we do this again next week?”

Susan was apprehensive about joining an outreach team but assisted as a silent prayer partner. When the teams returned and gave their reports, Susan was all smiles as she said, “I’m so glad I finally did this!”

Two 17 year olds decided to knock at “just one more door.” And it was at that door where they found the Bible study that God had waiting for them.

Still other teams shared how they came across scores of children in a nearby neighborhood who would be perfect to invite to church camp and vacation Bible school, so discussions began about starting a van ministry to make it possible for them to attend.

Reflecting on the weekend, Pastor Eric Bates said, “It’s easy for us to compartmentalize and think that sharing Christ is better done by someone else—the pastor, an evangelist, or some other ‘professional,’ or someone who is more extroverted than we are. What we learned during our weekend of hearing and doing is, all you need is a willingness to be used. God does the work. In fact, God’s been there before we even knock on the door and we are just a point of connection; connecting God seekers with His Word and He does the rest.”

In all, 11 teams went out into two territories on Sabbath afternoon. At the end of only 30 minutes of outreach, the church ended up with 24 new Bible studies, the possibility of a new outreach ministry, and a team of members who can’t wait to go out and do it again. 

And lest you think 24 Bible studies in 30 minutes was simply lightning in a bottle, similar events in Kennesaw, Georgia, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, on following weeks yielded similar results. In Chattanooga, 42 Bible studies were signed up in one hour. Churches energized and excited, and people receiving Bible studies.

If God is calling you to share your faith with others, do so. And expect God to do in your experience what He is doing in the lives of others.

2016-08-02If you would like to receive FREE It Is Written outreach training, check out the new SALT 365 program. Free, online training videos, on a variety of topics, you can watch at your own pace:

Religious Freedom isn’t Free

2016-07-25Religious freedom is easy to take for granted.  In the western world you can read a Bible—or not—believe whatever you want about God and attend the church of your choice. Or no church at all. But it’s easy to forget just how much religious freedom cost.

Recently, I was in St. Andrews, Scotland, filming an It Is Written television program, when  I noticed the initials “P.H.” spelled out in cobblestones on a street.  Many people who visit St. Andrews today do so in order to visit the famous St. Andrews golf course, considered to be the home of golf. The ruins of the St. Andrews cathedral and castle are also popular attractions, as well as the IMG_5088university itself—the place where Prince William met his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, known then as Kate Middleton. Yet the story behind those cobblestones speaks to one of the most important gifts God has ever given the world.

While studying in Paris, a young Scotsman named Patrick Hamilton was exposed to the teachings of Martin Luther.  He returned to Catholic Scotland a few years later espousing the doctrines of the Reformation, and quickly found himself on the wrong side of the establishment. In 1527, knowing he would be tried for heresy, Hamilton fled to Germany. But months later he returned to Scotland, and was soon summoned to appear before a Catholic council. Hamilton attended the council having been assured his life was in no danger; but that assurance was worth little. Archbishop James Beaton had Patrick Hamilton executed, burned at the stake outside St. Salvatore’s Chapel at the University of St. Andrews.

At the age when a person is typically getting established in a career or completing a master’s degree, Patrick Hamilton was standing boldly for his faith. He died aged 24.

A third of a mile from St. Salvatore’s Chapel—and the location of Patrick Hamilton’s demise—are the ruins of St. Andrews castle, and more initials paved into the ground. The GW visible on East Scores Street marks the spot on which Cambridge–educated George Wishart was hanged and burned at the stake by the same Catholic Archbishop responsible for the death of Hamilton. Wishart was only 33-years-old when he was put to death. Like Hamiton, he was executed for his Protestant faith, and his unwillingness to yield his conscience to the dictates of the ruling (Catholic) church.

What’s interesting about Wishart is that he knew all there was to know about Hamilton and his gruesome death. Even though Hamilton’s initials weren’t paved into the ground at that time, Wishart knew exactly where and how and why Hamilton died. Yet he didn’t back away even slightly from his commitment to the Bible.

In other words, he knew his faith in God and his insistence on believing and teaching the Bible would likely lead to his death. And he believed and taught and preached the Word of God anyway.

While there are parts of the world where to be a Christian means to risk your life, in the western world being a Christian rarely means even being inconvenienced. In many places being a Christian is a positively good thing, even helpful for one’s reputation or standing in the community. In the West, we don’t know the persecution some are going through. Faith doesn’t cost nearly as much as it cost Hamilton and Wishart.

And maybe—in some ways—that’s not really such a good thing.

A Chinese friend once told me he believed the end of persecution against Christians in China would be disastrous for the church in that country. In some parts of Europe, church leaders reported declining commitment to God as prosperity and the influence of the West increased.

Scotland was once a proudly Christian nation. Today, less than half of Scotland’s 5.3 million people identify
as Christian. While tourists flock to Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, and walk the streets once walked by the great reformer John Knox, it seems little thought is given to matters of faith. AIMG_5317 small, raised, round platform—a monument to martyrs not far from St Giles’ Cathedral—is located close enough to bars and restaurants that it serves mainly as a congregating point for drinkers and revelers. Early on Sunday morning when I left Edinburgh, the monument was littered with beer bottles and covered with paint. Close to that monument is Greyfriars Church, where the Scottish Covenanters made a bold stand for their biblical faith and where not many years later a large number of Protestants were imprisoned. Many were executed.Others were sent away into slavery. Reminders of the battle for religious freedom stand witness to the great opportunities we have—and so often waste—to use religious freedom for the best possible purposes.

It cost a lot to be a believer in 16th and 17th century Scotland. Many paid the supreme price.

Your religious freedom was purchased at an enormous cost. According to the Bible, there is coming a time when religious freedom won’t exist. Today, God isn’t calling many people in the West to die for Him. But He calls everyone to live for Him.

It have never been easier to be a follower of Christ and His word. 

Maybe, in some ways, that’s what makes it difficult.

This is a Time for Prayer

Slider-Time for Prayer C - no click

Two recent horrific attacks are simply more evidence that our nation and our world are caught in the grip of senseless, destructive violence.

More than 80 people were killed less than a week ago when a deranged man drove a large truck into a crowd gathered to enjoy the Bastille Day fireworks celebration in the South of France. The randomness of the attack—a truck? families out enjoying a fireworks display?—introduces a whole new level of “what in the world?” to the madness the world is enduring as terrorists kill and maim indiscriminately. 

And when reports surfaced a couple of days ago that three police officers had been killed in Baton Rouge… I can’t imagine I’m the only person who thought, “Is this ever going to end?”

While there are complex issues behind the unrest, disaffection, and anger plaguing society, we crave a way out of the mayhem.  And we realize that fifteen years after 9/11 and after the more recent tragic deaths of unarmed—and armed—black men, we may be further away from a solution to the crises we face than ever before.

Politicians have been working for years to rid the world of the terrorism that has inexorably altered our way of life here in the United States. [1. Airport security measures and heavily armed police on the streets of New York City on the Fourth of July tell us that yes, life has changed here. Less obvious measures tell us the same thing. And there won’t be any going back.]

And yet mass murderers in Orlando (49 killed, many wounded) and San Bernardino (14 dead, 22 seriously injured) and Bangladesh (23 murdered) and Baghdad (more than 300 dead, hundreds injured) and and and and, continue unabated.

Politicians certainly know what to say. “We will not let this prevent us from going about our daily lives.” Which is fine for those who still have a daily life to go about. After San Bernardino politicians said, “We must stop gun violence now,” and that gun violence “must stop.” 

Of course, that approach will usually work for parents trying to convince their three-year-old not to draw on the walls of the living room. But gun violence?

Following the killing of five policemen in Dallas, Texas, at a protest march, everyone near a microphone or a Twitter feed spoke up and said exactly what you’d expect. An actress: “We must love even harder. A politician: “We must learn to love each other.” Al Sharpton: “We must be against all killings period!” Another actress: “Please everyone stop killing each other.” Many spoke out strongly against the killing of police, saying that even the tragic deaths witnessed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and St. Paul, Minnesota, did not justify taking the lives of our dedicated men and women in blue.

There wasn’t a person in the United States who didn’t hear those appeals.  And yet here we find ourselves dealing with what has just happened in Baton Rouge.

No matter how hard politicians try, no matter how many appeals are tweeted, no matter how much handwringing and protesting and demanding, we live in a world where haters—as the poet wrote—gonna hate. As the brother of a slain police officer said, “It’s coming to the point where no lives matter.”

The prophetic picture painted in the Bible is that of a glorious future. Preceded by unfathomable difficulty.

In the meantime, believers ponder the best course of action. Is joining a protest line going to change anything at all? Well, it just might. Is tweeting a pithy comment about racism or hate or crime or policing going to make a difference? Maybe. That’s possible. Can the president actually say anything that is going to affect the wider situation for the better? We hope. His call for people to “temper our words and open our hearts” was the sort of comment a president is remembered for years later, and his assertion that “we’re going to have to keep on doing it again and again and again” [2. The “it” being proving through words and deeds that we will not be divided.]was a statement that realistically portrays the complexity of the journey from nation divided to a nation united.

But really? Really, the only hope for a people or a nation is to petition the God of heaven to intervene. Even though tweets claiming “our thoughts and prayers are with the people/police/families of X at this time” are ubiquitous [3. I’ve never figured out what “sending out prayers at this time” even means. Can you do that? “Send out prayers” to someone? I think not, actually.], prayer simply is the best hope for humanity in its battle against the tide of evil. 

Which is not to say prayer is a replacement for protests and politics and policing. A call to prayer is not a call to inaction. When dynamic faith in God undergirds personal and public action it brings power and transformation. The God who hears prayer doesn’t respond in silence. Prayer is frequently answered with a call to action.

A crowd of people who pray before (or while) protesting is unlikely to engage in mindless violence. An angry man who prays is not a man who will take a gun and shoot defenseless individuals. A police officer who prays in the line of duty may well hear God’s Spirit urging him or her to not pull the trigger when the situation doesn’t warrant the use of such force.

The wise man stated that “righteousness exalts a nation” (Proverbs 14:34). And God made an incredible promise—a promise—when He said in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Our lands need healing. Human hearts need the healing touch of God. And any attempt at bringing the country or the world to any semblance of normality and unity is doomed to fail if not sustained by a commitment to pray and a surrender to God.

While this earth will never be heaven and although troubles will continue until Jesus returns, it is only faith in Christ will see His Spirit break through the forces of darkness that are wreaking havoc in homes and communities across the country and around the world. When we pray God will hear. When He hears, we will act. And people who act under the aegis of God’s Spirit are not people who will perpetuate killing, hate, racism and violence.