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

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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

And the Winner is …

Hey TD!  Well, in a few a months, the world will be watching the Acadamey Awards show (aka The Oscars), the entertainment world’s biggest night.  “And the winner is …” will be said over and over again.   Well, one incredible David vs. Goliath story is in the category of Best Song.  Out of the blue, an unknown, unheralded song (with under 4,000 Youtube views) from an unheard of Christian movie received one of the five nominations for best song.  The song “Alone Yet Not Alone” (from the movie of the same name) has Hollywood up in arms.  Passed over are songs sung by the likes of Taylor Swift, Coldplay, Beyonce, and Jay Z.

What’s even crazier is that the song is sung by a singer who has never been professionally trained, who has only 51% lung capacity, and who is a … quadriplegic.  You guessed it.  The singer is none other than our beloved Joni Eareckson Tada!

And what has been happening since last week’s nomination?  A floodgate of national write ups, interview requests, television news stories, and other opportunities to give testimony to the God who will never truly leave His children alone.  The interviews are giving Joni a chance to discuss things like Christianity, suffering, and sin with the secular world.  And Joni is being faithful.

We’ve been in communication with Joni and she needs our fervent prayers and requests them from us.  Would you please be in prayer for Joni during this time, so she can fulfill and carry out what God has intended through this unlikely nomination?  Thank you!

And whether the song wins or not really isn’t the issue.  The victory has already been won.  And the winner is … Joni Eareckson Tada!

Here is the video of the song itself, followed by a link to a GREAT interview/story done on ABC7 News:

ABC7 story on Joni’s Oscar Nominated Song

Joni: An Unexplainable Life

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Hey TD’ers!

I want to invite you to be inspired, enriched, and, honestly, made better.  There are few lives I can think of lived better than the life of Joni Eareckson Tada.  Francis Chan calls her the godliest woman on the planet that he knows of.  Her life isn’t can’t be explained by anything less than the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  The world has no answer to it.

Join us this Friday as we continue our summer series, “Standing On the Shoulders of Giants.” In unpacking Joni’s life, Sandra will show us the character and ways of God.  Sandra has been preparing hard all week, and because Joni is a dear friend of ours, she will be able to share personal insights and observations not many can give.  Come learn from these great Christians women!  – Arthur