Tuesday, 21 July 2015

God's Smuggler

I recently finished 'God's Smuggler', a book that vividly depicts the life of Andrew van der Bijl, better known as Brother Andrew. I highly recommend reading this book, as it no doubt leaves you challenged, inspired and totally in awe of our awesome God!
Brother Andrew is the founder of Open Doors, an organisation that supports persecuted Christians around the globe. Last week marked 60 years since the first time he smuggled Christian literature into a no bounds country - communist Poland. Brother Andrew refers to his ministry as "combative, confrontational, controversial...[and] compassionate" He is driven solely by love - love for God, His Word and for His people. He is a man of controversy, faith, courage, prayer and discipline; I believe there is a lot we can learn from him and his heart for God. In this post, I'd like to share three 'Brother Andrew qualities' I'd like to see every Christian replicate (myself included!)

DISCIPLINE

One of the first things that struck me about this Dutch man was his unwavering discipline when it came to spending time with God.
I struggle finding the 'right time' to have a quiet time - even when I allocate a time, I end up compromising. I used to have it at 10pm but during the holidays, it is hard to keep my nights free. I tried having it at 5am but my sudden love for sleep has made it rather impossible to wake up...but here is a man who is 87 and never once missed his 2 hour long quiet time at 5am! Folks, this is dedication at its finest!
Brother Andrew doesn't just understand the importance of prayer in personal spiritual edification, but in global spiritual edification. It wasn't his fearlessness that has helped us cater to the needs of our persecuted family, neither was it his prowess, it was God working through Him because he put God first, come rain or shine. Here is a man living out the words of Oswald Chambers when he said, "Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work"

Behind every breakthrough, there is prayer.
Behind every miracle, there is prayer.
Behind every revival, there is prayer.
Prayer brings us closer to our Father; it tunes our hearts to beat with His and better acquaints us with the voice of His Spirit in us.
We want to see our nation saved. What is stopping us from pursuing a healthy, consistent prayer life? If it truly mattered to us, we will make time for it.

DEPENDENCE

There have been moments in my life where I've been helpless, situations only God could help me out of. We are taught to secure our lives, be it our futures or finances; none of us choose to be helpless. However a sense of security can often lead to pride or self-reliance; it can also make us vulnerable to fear. To trade that for helplessness eases the fear as we solely depend on God. His strength is made complete in our weakness.
Brother Andrew is a man who intentionally made himself helpless, to ensure all glory belonged to God alone. In his book, he speaks of times he had to queue, waiting his turn at some thorough security checks, in a car literally bursting at its hinges with Bibles:
"Lord," I went on, "I know that no amount of cleverness on my part can get me through this border search.  Dare I ask for a miracle?  Let me take some of the Bibles out and leave them in the open where they will be seen.  Then, Lord I cannot possibly be depending on my own stratagems, can I?  I will be depending utterly upon You."
While the last car was going through its chilling inspection, I managed to take several Bibles from their hiding places and pile them on the seat beside me.
It was my turn. I put the little VW in low gear, inched up to the officer standing at the left side of the road, handed him my papers, and started to get out.  But his knee was against the door, holding it closed.  He looked at my photograph in the passport, scribbled something down, shoved the papers back under my nose, and abruptly waved me on. 
Surely thirty seconds had not passed.  I started the engine and inched forward.  Was I supposed to pull over, out of the way where the car could be taken apart?  Was I ... surely I wasn’t...I coasted forward, my foot poised above the brake.  Nothing happened.  I looked out the rear mirror.  The guard was waving the next car to a stop, indicating to the driver that he had to get out.  On I drove a few more yards.  The guard was having the driver behind me open the hood of his car.  And then I was too far away to doubt that indeed I had made it through that incredible checkpoint in the space of thirty seconds.
My heart was racing.  Not with the excitement of the crossing, but with the excitement of having caught such a spectacular glimpse of God at work!
This is complete surrender, and one of my favourite parts of the book!
 
FAITH
“In the years of living this life of faith, I have never known God's care to fail.”
Jesus said that a mustard seed of faith can move mountains. I often struggle to even have an iota of it as I am blinded by doubts, logic and reality. Faith is a spiritual gift that goes hand in hand with dependence; I seek more of it in my life, hence I admire how full of faith Brother Andrew was (and still is!).
 
In missionary school, he was taught to uncomplainingly depend on God for his every need. He speaks of how he prayed, knowing God will but not knowing how He will. From providing daily necessities and meeting his fees, to answering his prayer for seeing eyes to be made blind to the Bibles he carried, he clung to God with child-like faith.  
“That's the excitement in obedience, finding out later what God had in mind.”  
Such faith helps us stand firm in the face of adversity, as we are assured of God's sovereignty. It leads to unquestioning obedience, as we can be certain that whatever God asks of us, wherever He calls us, He will be with us and work it for our good.
 
 
There is a lot more I want to share, but I don't want to spoil the book for you. I urge you to read (or even re-read) 'God's Smuggler' for yourselves - you can ask for a copy here, or if you prefer a comic, here.
May we, like Brother Andrew, be driven by love, to walk the paths God has etched out for us.

If you'd like to know more about the work of Open Doors, here is a little film they've just released:
Images credit: Open Doors Youth UK

Monday, 6 July 2015

A Man Like Peter

Over the past few months, I have fallen in love with Peter. He's just so relatable - he is as impulsive as I am and has a mouth that gets him into a lot of trouble! That aside, I love him because his life is filled with lessons we can all learn.


Empty Service

When I see people serve vigorously in churches, lead worship, defend Biblical truths (sometimes without grace!), write articles on God, passionate about evangelism or even just meticulously observe religiosities, I tend to categorise them as pretty solid believers. My na├»ve assumptions were soon challenged while meditating on Luke 4 and 5.

The first 11 verses of Luke 5 give an account of Peter's salvation.

v.8 When Simon Peter saw this he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!"
 
Although, he previously saw Jesus heal his sick mother-in-law and offered his boat for Jesus to preach from, this is when Peter actually recognises his sinfulness and acknowledges Jesus as the righteous Lord.
This change was the result of a little personal miracle in v.6.

Way before I became a Christian, I used to drop tracts into people's houses. That tract dropping (let us not call it evangelism!) helped me fake a goody-two-shoes persona, when in reality I did not even know my need for a Saviour. It was a personal and rather low-key (compared to Peter's) encounter with the Holy Spirit that opened my eyes to the mystery of grace.

Work in Progress

I remember the day I was baptised. I thought I will never sin again, let alone face temptations...to my dismay, the moment I left the church, I lied!

Peter was much the same. Even though he was by Jesus' side, witnessed the transfiguration, confessed that He was the Messiah - he did not have the plans of God in mind, he impulsively cut off a man's ear and even denied Jesus three times.

I struggled to grasp that Jesus' blood paid it all - past, present and future. Now that does not give us a license to sin, but a license to be freed from the clutches and condemnation of sin. Both Judas and Peter failed Jesus, and no doubt they were both broken by guilt. The difference between a by-name-Christian and a born-again-Christian is in how they respond to this guilt; Peter let the guilt move him to a state of repentance, while Judas sadly let it condemn and kill him. Our human selves are incapable of repenting, much like salvation, this too is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Friend, Jesus' blood has made us perfect forever, but is making us holy as we journey through this fallen world. (Hebrew 10:14)

History Maker

Despite his failings and even his denying, Jesus destined Peter to be a history maker - it was imperfect Peter who was chosen to be the 'rock on which [Jesus] will build [His] church'
Isn't it wonderful that God didn't give up on Peter because he was impulsive!
Isn't it amazing that God did not disqualify Peter from serving Him because of his lack of qualifications!

We all have one assignment: to tell the world about Jesus. God opens doors of opportunities for us to fulfil this assignment; when we take a step of faith, the Holy Spirit takes control (Luke 12:11-12).
Peter, a fisherman, became an apostle who eloquently preached the Gospel to high and lowly alike. Not only were people astonished but many were saved and added to their number.

I don't know about you, but all this reflecting has made me crave some quite-time with our awesome God! Let us get down on our knees and let God transform us into history makers!

Here's one of my all time favourites from Delirious? to set the scene: