Happy Birthday to Our Dear Friend and Hero in the Lord, Joni!

Photo: Visiting and singing to the one and only, Joni Eareckson Tada, on her 71st birthday!

Photo: The coronavirus can’t stop us from celebrating a life well-lived!

Hey TD!

Would you please join me in rejoicing and celebrating the birthday of the incomparable and singular Joni Eareckson Tada! One of the most beloved Christians in the world today – who Francis Chan said he believes to be the godliest woman on the planet (his words) – and one for whom living each day itself takes an Olympian effort, Joni is a true spiritual hero to so many, including my family.

We had the joy of paying her a surprise birthday visit at her home to sing to her and wish her a very happy birthday. What a delight it was to visit with her and her husband, Ken (socially distanced, of course), and to have the refreshment of being in the Spirit’s presence, who always graces us in a unique way when we’re together.

Many of you TD’ers don’t even know who Joni is … but you should, you really should. All TD alumni know of her and have been graced and inspired by her many times over, as she has a special heart for TD. Just ask them.

In honor of Joni’s birthday, and for your own inspiration and growth, would you please watch and be immensely enriched by the following videos? You will be strengthened, sharpened, humbled, and moved: A Deeper Healing

And for you artists out there, this is inspiring too: Painting for God’s Pleasure

Here’s a bonus video of TD visits Joni at the International Disability Center. This beautiful luncheon with Joni and Ken was for the top V4V award winners.

Joni is not into herself. She just wants God to be glorified, Jesus to be cherished and loved, the Spirit to move powerfully and freely, and the vulnerable – especially those with disabilities – to be valued and empowered. She would be so thrilled to know that you watched her videos and were strengthened in these ways. That would be all she would want for her birthday.

So, if after you watch, you are so inclined and moved to write her a note of how your faith was strengthened, I’ll pass it on to her!

Would you stop and say a sincere prayer for our dear sister, who is now in her 54th year of quadriplegia? That would mean the world to her.

Happy Birthday, Joni, 71 years young!

– Arthur

An Invitation to an Hour With God During These Times

An Hour of Impacting Prayer and Worship

During this one-hour online prayer time, various brothers and sisters, pastors and ministry leaders, as well as special musicians join together in a unifying moment of corporate prayer and worship.

The schedule for this one-hour livestream prayer event is as follows:

  • Song: “In Christ Alone,” led by Austin Stone Worship
  • Welcome and introduction (Julius Kim)
  • Prayers for the sick and suffering (Ligon Duncan, Jen Wilkin)
  • Prayers for medical workers (Joni Eareckson Tada, Stephen Um)
  • Prayers for provision/economy (Nancy Guthrie, John Onwuchekwa)
  • Song: “He Will Hold Me Fast,” led by Shane and Shane
  • Prayers for local, national, and global government officials (Kevin DeYoung, Jeany Jun)
  • Prayers for church leaders and missionaries (Darryl Williamson, Quina Aragon)
  • Prayers for families (John Piper, Melissa Kruger)
  • Prayers for the lost (David Platt, Jeremy Treat)
  • Next steps: #JesusChangedMyLife (Jeremy Treat)
  • Closing thoughts (Julius Kim)
  • Song: “Christ Our Hope in Life and Death,” led by Keith and Kristyn Getty

Hey TD!

My soul feels humbled, my heart strengthened, my mind sharper, my faith deepened, my longings focused, my perspective clearer.  I just spent an hour in prayer to God with Joni Eareckson Tada, John Piper, David Platt, Ligon Duncan, and many others.  I sang with Keith and Kristyn Getty and Shane and Shane.

Via the video of a livestream gathering today hosted by The Gospel Coalition, I came away humbled and sharper, as I now better understand how to specifically think of and pray for others during this coronavirus pandemic.  By the end, I found a greater energy and a softer heart than when the hour began.  I felt more connected with God’s Church universal and nearer in my soul to God.

I must say that in the 528 hours (and counting) since we’ve gone to strict social distancing, though I’ve spent many hours video conferencing, reading, memorizing, learning, studying, posting, playing Nerts and Rummikub, walking Joy, watching videos, singing, etc., this is the longest and most focused I’ve gone just praying in one sitting.

During these weeks, my prayer time has drifted to praying before meals, before sleeping, after Bible study, with short intermittent prayers throughout the day, but it hasn’t yet been protracted and concerted in this way.  It was enriching to do so.  My soul is in a better place.

So, TD, I wanted to share the opportunity with you as well in hopes that you will join me in trying to do whatever it takes to draw nearer to God, to His Church, and to love our world better during these times.

I hope you’ll invest an hour of your time.  I’m pretty sure you’ll be glad you did.

– Arthur

Catching Up With Francis Chan, now in Hong Kong (3/25/20)

Challenging Interview with Francis Chan from his new home – Hong Kong

Hey TD!

Through the decades of speaking at colleges, high schools, retreats, etc., I’ve been told by people that when I speak, I remind them of so-and-so; or so-and-so (one person said when I speak, I really reminded her of Obama! And that was a half a year before he was elected as the POTUS!).  I’m not surprised when I hear that I remind some people of some theologian or apologist because some of the people they have mentioned have indeed had a strong impact on me, both personally and through their ministries of teaching, writing, and personal conversation.

One person that has come up a few times is Francis Chan. Even Joni Eareckson Tada told me during one conversation that when I speak, I remind her of Francis, whom she knows and loves personally, and vice versa.  While I’ve had a few conversations with him, we don’t really know each other outside the occasional run-in at a conference.

And though I do have a great admiration for his work, I have an even greater admiration for his life.  One of Ravi Zacharias’s favorite authors, F.W. Boreham, once wrote:

“It puts iron into the blood to spend time with one for whom the claim of conscience is supreme and who loves the truth of God with so deathless an affection.”

I must admit that whenever I read Chan, listen to a message or him interviewed, it puts serious iron into my blood and leaves me yearning to love Christ better.  His trust in the Lord and His courage to follow Him truly humbles me and sends me to God praying for Him to have His way with me.

When you watch this interview that was done just a few days ago, I know it will do something similar for you too!

– Arthur

What Being Alive Looks Like! Watch Joni and Nick!

Video of Joni and Nick

Hey TD!

I texted this video of our family friends, Joni Eareckson Tada and Nick Vujicic, to all of my family members the other day.  After Sandra watched it, here was her reply:

“I loved, loved, loved the video with Joni and Nick.  They are so incredible and ALIVE!!!! They are hilarious as well, and to think we personally know them :).  They aren’t the ones with disabilities, we are!  They make us look like zombies and burdened by all the unnecessary distractions of life … YOU MUST TAKE THE TIME TO WATCH THIS!!!”

TD, I’ve been trying all year to get us to be more alive.  Would you use this quarantine time to let God bring you back to life? Please watch this 30 minute video and … behold.  Just marvel and try to fathom this …

… a man born with no arms and no legs … a woman who was very active until the age of 17, before becoming a quadriplegic 52 years ago … HOW IS IT THAT THEY ARE SO HAPPY AND HAVE SUCH JOY???

ENJOY this video, TD, and let God have His way with you!

– Arthur

Must See: A Calming Word from Joni During Coronavirus … and more!

A Calming Word from Joni During the Coronavirus

Hey TD!

It was great to “hangout” with you all during our first “Virtual TD” hangout last night. I particularly enjoyed the extra hour I got to personally spend with those who hung out for the post-TD discussion, almost half of you.

During this time of quarantine, we will be utilizing this blog more frequently to provide you encouraging, stimulating, and ENJOYable resources to strengthen and equip you to help turn this Coronavirus lemon into lemonade!

As Cassie shared last night, this is an opportunity for us put God back in His rightful place in our lives, and get our lives properly  realigned … because honestly, we’re all just too busy.  As I said last night, sure, the things we may be doing may be “good,” but good is the enemy of BEST.  Let’s use this to either get back to BEST practices or to learn BEST practices for living.

Please watch the VERY encouraging video above from our dear friend and hero, Joni Eareckson Tada, to begin the work of getting back to the right place in your heart and mind.

Looking forward to being with you all next Friday for our next Virtual TD meeting.

We’ll continue to work on making our time better, so if you have any suggestions, please let your small group leaders know!

In the meanwhile, here are a couple of fun V4V videos, one from V4V weekend and one from our visit with Joni in 2013 (the top V4V fund raisers).  You’ll see some current adults in their TD years (always a fun thing!):

2013 V4V Lunch with Joni

2020 V4V – Humming Worship

– Arthur

TD Prep for “Potent Once More” – Lessons on Loyalty We Need to Learn

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Hey TD!

That’s my family!  I love my family (but who are those two Latino guys?)!  What’s also an extreme blessing is that they are also a part of my spiritual family, for which I really thank God for!

The pictures above were taken last week at Joni and Friends FAMILY Retreat, where over 40 of us from MBCLA were richly blessed and captivated by the power and beauty of loyalty.  There’s really nothing like it. We were overwhelmed by the power of parents’ extreme loyalty to their severely disabled children, as well as the mutual loyalty of both typical siblings and siblings with disabilities alike.

We also ached for families shattered by disloyalty – where parents (and even siblings) did not remain faithful and committed to their own families affected by disability during the valleys (in some cases) and opportunities (in other cases) of life.  Instead, they bailed on their families to either just escape from their situation (usually the father) or to escape and fulfill their dreams. Cowardice or selfishness.  In both cases, the family is left to fend for themselves.

One essential core life value was re-affirmed to me: You never leave your family.

One man I met at Family Retreat cried on my shoulder under this conviction, after having divorced his wife of 23 years, leaving her with their disabled daughter.  My prayer for him was that they will reunite and become a family again.

A Powerful Apologetic

Friends, one of the most potentially powerful apologetic tools we have is the power of God in an authentically committed Christian family.  That came through loud and clear at retreat.  But what is also essential and powerful is the display of God’s power in a spiritual family (sometimes it includes your biological family and sometimes it doesn’t); for when we are asking people to come to Christ, we are also inviting them to become part of a spiritual family.  But if that family isn’t extraordinarily faithful and loyal to God and each other (Luke 10:27), displaying undeniable evidence of the value of life lived under the Spirit’s reign and value system, who is really going to buy into the claims Christians make?

The fact is, one of the biggest hindrances to people coming to Christ is … Christians; and it’s not really the straight up hypocritical “Christians” that even non-Christians know aren’t really Christians.  It’s the modern-day Pharisee-like Christians; the ones who really live pretty much under the same value system as everyone else does, just a little nicer, cleaner, and more religious. But that’s not true loyalty to the heart and soul of Christ, whose value system is VERY different.

If the world is going to believe in the power of Christ to transform lives, they had better see transformed lives!  That is, they had better see a loyalty that so values, so cherishes, so treasures Christ and His Kingdom, to the point of unexplainable joyful self-denial (“If any man wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself …” Matt. 16:24).

A Christianity without loyalty to the point of self-denial is not a Christianity worth inquiring about.  It is impotent. 

Recently, I came across the following lessons on loyalty from Pastor Aroboto in Ireland that I thought would be helpful reminders for us that I mildly added to as we continue our Summer TD series this Friday, “Potent Once More”.  If we don’t live this out, we are letting the world know that His Kingdom isn’t really all that great, not really worth sacrificing for.  That is the very opposite message that Jesus’ and the early church’s lives sent the world when it “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6):

SIX LESSONS ON LOYALTY

1. LOYALTY DOES NOT WAVER. Loyalty involves the steady involvement and commitment to our relationships and responsibilities to God and His kingdom. It also suggests the presence of likely turbulent factors that will constantly attempt to tip the scales of our allegiance … Some of these forces might even be of legitimate nature, making them potentially the most dangerous.

2. LOYALTY IS WHAT YOU DO, NOT WHAT YOU SAY. Talk, they say, is cheap … Loyalty must be action backed. It can and does not thrive on mere verbal assurances; it must reveal itself in all that we do.

3. LOYALTY IS A WILLING DECISION. Forced compliance is fake loyalty. It is not uncommon to observe this brand of loyalty in some circles, both in secular and faith-based organizations. However loyalty must not be faked, else it will snowball into technical sabotage. This is a crime that attracts consequences and as such must be avoided at all costs. You must make up your mind to align yourself with God’s will as far as loyalty is concerned. Remember, the bible clearly states that “Be not deceived, God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man sows, this he will also reap.” Gal 6:7. It suffices to say then that when we allow ourselves to get embroiled in disloyalty we run the risk of reaping the same.

4. LOYALTY IS DEMANDING. Loyalty will usually put demands on you. When we don’t become comfortable with this truth, disloyalty becomes inevitable. You will be called upon to do the unthinkable sometimes, and you must be careful not to be misguided by what may seem as demeaning tasks and responsibilities. Sometimes promotion comes in the most unfashionable assignments.

5. LOYALTY WILL INVOLVE SACRIFICE. This is the real deal. Your allegiance to God, the ministry, your family, and your friends will call for seasons of personal sacrifice. What is sacrifice? It is the act of giving something precious and of high value at one’s expense. The kind of loyalty that does not require you to make regular sacrifices does not really exist. If it does, it is only in the imagination. The point here is that you must be willing to accompany your allegiance to the object of your loyalty with regular giving of time, money and resources. It may not be convenient but it is usually necessary.

6. LOYALTY TO GOD WILL BE REWARDED. The fruit of loyalty in all its shades often results in surprising rewards. As Coach Wooden taught, faith is trusting that if you do what you ought, things will turn out the way they ought. Let this motivate and encourage you.

For further Study Psalm 84:10-11, Matthew 26:33-35, 26:69-75, 2 Chronicles 11:13-16, Exodus 17:8-13, Psalm 78:8

Let’s get to work, TD!

– Arthur

Jenny Featured on Joni’s Blog

Hey TD!

We look forward to seeing you all at our TD Kick-Off meeting this Friday!  It will be a special time.

Did any of you see Joni’s blog today?  If not, here’s her post.  Oops, I mean here’s Jenny’s post!  Maybe we should form a ministry called Jenny and Friends 🙂 Click on the link if you want to see it on Joni’s blog.  Otherwise, here it is … and don’t miss the power of her message. – Arthur

Guest Post by Jenny Liu

  • By: Joni Eareckson Tada
  • Sept. 2, 2014
  • 1 Comment
  • Joni’s Posts

Jenny and Joni

“I have volunteered with Joni and Friends for years now, serving at Family Retreats, disability summits, and more. And in that time, Joni, I’ve always marveled how God has used one girl with a broken neck. Back then, I’m sure you felt forsaken by God. Like Jesus when He cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” But as Ravi Zacharias once observed, at that very moment, at the height of Jesus’ sense of desolation, He was, in actual fact, in the very center of His Father’s will. Forty-seven years ago when you were face-down on a hospital Stryker frame, God and His will couldn’t have seemed more distant. But now, it is clear that when you felt the most forsaken, you were actually right in the center of His will. Not without tears and pain… but because of what God has done in your life, so many lives have been changed (including mine). I would not be where I am today and who I am today, were it not for your story, and the ministry of Joni and Friends :). May we all remember that when we feel the pain of deep suffering, it may well be the wedge of God’s will. Soli Deo Gloria!”

What if You Are Dying?

Hey TD,

The question in the heading is actually rhetorical, for in reality, every one of us IS dying.  We are one day closer to it everyday.  We ARE dying.  How would you handle a diagnosis that your dying process has been accelerated due to cancer or something similar?  That’s something Sandra and I think about a lot.  Not morbidly, mind you; but realistically.  We have both been experiencing unnatural pains or sensations in our bodies of late that have reminded us of our mortality, especially in light of the consistent and unyielding stream of funerals we’ve attended in recent years.

In Randy Alcorn’s life-changing novel, Safely Home,” the lead character (my hero), Li Quan, constantly asks, “Is this the day that I die?”  He too does not ask it morbidly; just realistically … and biblically.  It’s really a question we ought to be frequently asking.  In Luke 12, God calls out those who don’t think this way, warning them that their lives might be required of them that very night (v. 20).  A few verses later, He instructs, “Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit.  Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks.” (vv. 35-36)

In this video, you hear how Bobbie and Robert Wolgemuth are handling Bobbie’s battle with cancer.  They are good acquaintences of ours and dear friends of Joni and Ken.  The doctors have told them there is nothing more they can do and have stopped all chemo and treatment.  Though very difficult, their lives demonstrate the truth that Jesus makes, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you.” (John 14)  I hope you’ll watch soberly, consider your life and calling, and live hard for Him this week! – Arthur

Disability Ministry in China is Booming!

Hey TD, this is some encouraging news from Joni (just posted yesterday)!  I’ve always wondered why God has taken a Chinese church like ours and led it to be such a large force at the Murrieta Hot Springs Family Retreat for so many years.  It may well be as a segue for some of you to minister to the disabled in China!  Jenny has already served at a Family Retreat in Shenyang, China a couple of years ago.

This summer, Nathaniel is serving as the co-ordinator team leader for the STM’s at the same Family Retreat in Shenyang!  Please pray for him as he has been given quite a responsibility and workload.  May God’s hands and heart reach those families affected with disabilities in Shenyang!  Thanks in advance! – Arthur

Disability Ministry in China is Booming!

  • By: Joni Eareckson Tada

Map of China showing where Joni and Friends is serving

In the last few weeks, three Wheels for the World teams have been delivering wheelchairs and Bibles (and Joni books in Chinese) in different parts of the People’s Republic of China, sharing Christ’s love and giving practical help. Just last week, we held our International Family Retreat in Nanjing with many special-needs families hearing the Gospel for the first time. In addition, our Pastor’s Conference was extremely well attended as we taught these Christian leaders all about the Savior’s mandate in Luke 14. And finally, this past weekend our teams completed a Special Education Training Conference, helping Chinese leaders understand how to reach children with autism (with a biblical worldview)! Please join me in praying that God will “grow” all the Gospel seeds we are planting throughout China (and the map shows you where). Praise be to God for His indescribable gift! And join me in asking God to cover our teams with His safe hand as they journey home to the U.S.

Prayer Requests from Joni

Hey TD!

Thanks a bunch to those of you who told me you are praying for Joni.  That touched her.  I just heard from Joni and she is asking for specific prayers from us at TD.  I promised her that we would be faithful to do so.  Will you join us in doing so?  Here’s what she writes:

Wow, Arthur, I’m so GRATEFUL for all this prayer support from you and my friends at Total Devotion!  And prayer is needed:  I just came down with a terrible head cold this morning (am leaving the IDC as soon as my meeting with the Zondervan folks is finished).  My head is stuffy, my throat is sore, my nose is running (and I sound like a Mucinex commercial).  All this to say, I need big prayer, asking God that this not descend into my chest (you know how colds can develop quickly into pneumonia when you’re a quad)! 

Please, please tell Total Devotion how grateful to God I am for their prayers.  Here’s how they can intercede…

  • That my health and strength be bolstered and these cold germs be eradicated
  • That God will give me His words and His wisdom with all these many interviews lining up, both Christian and secular.  I want to keep pointing people to the God of the Bible!
  • That the Lord will cover Ken and me with His protection – after watching just 10 minutes of the Grammys on Sunday evening, it is abundantly clear that there are huge dark, spiritual strongholds that grip the minds and hearts of Hollywood people.  In other words, Ken and I feel like there is a bigger target on our back now.  So ask God to give protection, humility, focus on Jesus, and a prayerful spirit!  (The National Day of Prayer this year is going to focus on the entertainment industry; what a wonderful coincidence)!

Thanks for all your interest and support in this Oscar rollercoaster.  Many blessings, dear friend, and love to your family…

Joni

“The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16)  If you are a Christian, Christ’s righteousness is yours.  That makes you righteous!  And that makes your prayers effective.  So, would you please pray earnestly and become a tangible part of the work God is doing through this nomination?  Thank you! – Arthur