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THE BEST CATALOG EVER

Bob lost his job this week. The company went through another round of lay-offs and this time Bob was caught in the crossfire. It did not come as a huge shock. Bob had been warning me for almost two months that it still could happen, but still, when he gave me a heads-up a few days earlier, I have to admit, a prickle of fear went down my spine and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. Tuesday he called and said it had indeed happened, and he was on his way home.
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By that time, I took it pretty well. Oh, I got a little teary-eyed when I called a couple people to tell them, and they, of course, were very sympathetic. That tone of voice does it to me every time! We live by faith, however, and it was time to put my money (or lack of it, I should say!) where my mouth is. Besides, when my husband leads the way and proclaims, from his heart, that he is excited and looking with expectancy to see what God is going to do next in our lives – where He will lead us, how He will provide – then, it is an encouragement to me to just let go, and let God work.
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It wasn’t three hours later when the Lord had something wonderful to say to me! The mail came, and as is usual at this time of year, there was yet another catalog in the mail. How I ever got on so many mailing lists I’ll never know, because I almost never order from catalogs. I enjoy looking at them, but when it comes to actually parting with my money and – horror of horrors! – paying shipping and handling, I can never quite bring myself to do it. But here was a new catalog – one I had never seen before.
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Hmm, this looks different, I thought as I sat down to take a quick peek at it. “Samaritan’s Purse Gift Catalog.” They must be selling things made by people around the world to help support themselves. I wonder what neat little trinkets are in this catalog.
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That’s not what that catalog was about at all. As I thumbed through the pages I began to see that it was not filled with things that I could buy for myself, or my friends and family. Rather, its pages featured things like a dozen baby chicks, emergency medicine, Bibles, a fishing boat, dairy animals, a month of Bible training for a future national preacher, water filters, blankets, mosquito netting, fruit trees, food to feed a family for a month, milk to help a baby for a week, and so on… Forty-eight different things I could “buy” to make a difference in someone else’s life, physically and/or spiritually, who has nothing by this world’s standards.
*
I began to bawl like a baby as I looked at that catalog. The Lord was saying to me, “You see – you have so much compared to the rest of the world, Cindy! You have a warm roof over your head. You have food on your table – too much food. You have clean water. You have health care available to you. Even without a job now, you and Bob have help available to you and you will get through this. You have the love and support of family, friends and your brothers and sisters in the Lord. You have My Word freely and abundantly available to you! And greatest gift of all – you are My child through the salvation freely given in Jesus Christ! Do you see how rich you are? Do you see how I have blessed you?
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There is not a day that goes by for many years now that I have not praised the Lord for how He has blessed us, and realized that by the standards of most of the rest of the world, we are very rich, indeed. On this day, though, when the temptation was great to be fearful and worry about how we would pay the bills, I really needed that visual message to take the focus off of our problems and to just praise the Lord for His blessings in our lives. That little catalog brought comfort to me that day.
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It also brought conviction. My first inclination was to regretfully think, Oh, I wish I could “buy” some of these things! But with Bob losing his job today, we just can’t. Of all the days for this catalog to come! We will have to be careful with our money now. We already support two missionaries as well as our church, and we are determined that their support will not suffer. Whatever the Lord brings in, we will give from that, even if it is just the “widow’s mite.”
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The Lord had something more to say to me, though.
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Give to these who have nothing EVER. NOTHING day after day, for year after year. Give out of gratitude for all that you have even in your poorest moments.
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Give out of faith that I will provide your needs and even many of your wants for as long as it takes. Depend on Me – not job security.
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Give because you love Me and I have commanded you to give to those in need so that they may see My love in their lives, as well.
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Give beyond what you are giving now. Give and watch Me give back – watch with excitement and expectancy! You cannot out-give Me!
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And so we will pick something, or several somethings, from this little catalog to give to someone who has nothing.
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I do not share this looking for praise for ourselves, but as a praise to the Lord, and as a reminder to all of us to take the focus off our own problems and seeming “lacks,” and rather remember how truly blessed we are and that out of our abundance, we can surely give a little more.
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Some of the Scriptures I found in the “best catalog ever:”
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But you see the trouble and grief…The helpless put their trust in You. You defend the orphans. Psalm 10:14
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Help Him to defend the poor, to rescue the children of the needy. Psalm 72:4a
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He will rescue the poor when they cry to Him; He will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them. Psalm 72:12
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For He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. Psalm 107:9
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But You are a tower of refuge to the poor, O Lord, a tower of refuge to the needy in distress. You are a refuge from the storm and a shelter from the heat. Isaiah 25:4a
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He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. Deuteronomy 10:18
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Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress. James 1:27
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It’s been a great week! Within hours of Bob losing his job, we began to see how the Lord would provide for our needs. We’ve been praising the Lord! We have actually been worry-free. Wow! Who would have “thunk it!” We ask for your prayers, though, for we know we are human and the seeds of doubt and worry could start creeping in, but we pray we will just keep trusting the Lord and living by faith day by day, not in word only, but truly in deed.
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And just in case you would like to take a look at this “best catalog ever,” you can receive a copy by calling Samaritan’s Purse at 1-800-353-5957, or you can download it at
www.samaritanspurse.org

DULCE DE LECHE

Please forgive me – I won’t be doing a “Sundays with Cindy” this week. Today is World Missions Sunday at our church and we are having an International Dinner tonight. Pastor asked me to head it up and I have spent the last few weeks working hard at planning and preparing for it. One of the things we did was ask our missionaries from around the world to send us recipes that we could use for our dinner, so instead of writing my blog this morning I will be in the kitchen making “Chicken Yassa” from the Gambia in West African, and a dessert from Ecuador called “Dulce de Leche.” I am a little nervous about making two totally foreign dishes to me that I have never prepared before, or even tasted, and then having to take it to share at church. But as I’ve been saying to the other nervous women who have been calling me all week about their recipes, who’s going to know the difference if it isn’t exactly the way they do it in Africa or Ecuador or Thailand or Norway?

Speaking of Norway – I’m just glad I didn’t get the recipe for Elk Stew. I have had elk in my freezer before, but I don’t happen to have any this year. Of course the recipe did say if you don’t have any elk, you can substitute reindeer. Hmm, I’m fresh out of reindeer, too!

Anyway, I thought you might be interested in this recipe Laurie sent us from Ecuador. I copied it just as she wrote it.

DESSERT — Dulce de Leche [Literally “Sweet from Milk”]
(serves approx. 20 people)

This is kind of a gooey topping that is usually spread on little breads (like small pan rolls) or crackers, like Ritz crackers. It reminds me a lot of the frosting for a German chocolate cake but without the pecans.

Ingredients:

4 liters of milk (approx. 1 gallon)
4 tsp. cinnamon
5 cloves
5 cups sugar
2 lb. coconut
1 Tbsp. butter
1 egg, beaten
small breads or rolls or crackers for serving

Simmer milk with cinnamon and cloves for 15 minutes. Remove cloves. Add sugar and keep simmering for 10 more minutes. Add coconut and simmer about 15 more minutes until mixture gets thick and the spoon leaves a “trail” as you stir it. (Also, the mixture might start to pop and jump when it’s about ready.) Add butter and egg (already beaten) to the mix and stir. Remove from heat immediately.

Spread on small breads or crackers to serve. [I’m using the Ritz crackers. I thought the combination of sweet ‘n’ salty sounded good!]

And just a bit of spiritual dulce de leche for thought:

“And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” John 6:35
“The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” Psalm 19:9, 10
“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” I Peter 2:2,3
Okay, I think I just did a “Sundays with Cindy,” after all! Enjoy!

PASSPORT TO THE WORLD

October is Missions Month in our church. We will have special missionary speakers throughout the month and October 18th will be World Missions Sunday. I am looking forward to that day when we will have four missionary families with us. Two mission agencies, Compassion International and Gideons, will also be represented during the conference. Among the other activities and special services that day, we will have an International Dinner. I have been working on several of the special projects for this missions conference for over a month now and it is exciting to see our hard work coming to fruition. Missions has always been near and dear to my heart, so my prayer is that this special emphasis in our church will be used by God to stir hearts to be laborers in His harvest fields, whether here or abroad, and to really care and pray for those who go.
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The theme for Missions Month is “The Gospel – Our Passport to the World.” Pastor asked me to design little passports to hand out to everyone, with pages featuring the missionaries and agencies we will have with us, and places where they can be “stamped” by the missionaries, etc. I was also asked to write a short skit for World Missions Sunday along that theme. I had just renewed my passport this year in preparation for my upcoming trip to Ecuador, and I can assure you, I probably have the best read passport in the USA after using it for my inspiration in these projects!
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I would like to share that skit here with you today as just a little food for thought:

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Passport to the World

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20)

Setting: A missionary (older man) is standing next to his display shaking hands with people as they leave the church. Two or three people come through, quickly shake hands and move on. A young couple comes up to display and stops to look at it.

Missionary Whitman: (Smiling and reaching out to shake hands.) Hi, there!

Pete: Good morning, Mr. Whitman. Really enjoyed your message this morning. Thanks so much for sharing your ministry with us today.

Whitman: You’re welcome. It’s great to be here! (To young wife) Do you see anything that interests you, young lady?

Meg: (She smiles, picking up a curio to look at it more closely.) It all interests me!

Pete: Oh, excuse me! I guess we should introduce ourselves. My name is Pete Jenkins and this is my wife, Meg.

Whitman: Good to meet you both!

Pete: To tell you the truth, Mr. Whitman, we are very interested in missions. Every time we have one of these missions conferences, or a missionary comes to speak, we just feel like maybe the Lord is calling us somehow into missions. And now, we can’t seem to shake that feeling, even in between hearing missionaries speak here in our church.

Meg: We don’t know, though… We have so many questions! How do we know for sure if God is really calling us, and it’s not just our own feelings leading us? Where in the world would He have us to go if He is calling us? Our hearts feel burdened every time we see a missionary presentation. And really, we don’t even know if we’re strong enough to do something like this—all that preparation, I mean, and then to leave family and home behind… (She shrugs her shoulders and looks doubtful.)

Pete: (Earnestly) Yes, how can we know if we really are called and if we have what it takes to be a missionary?

Whitman: (Laughs.) Hold on! To really answer all those questions would take hours. I encourage you to speak with your pastor and share your questions with him. Let me just share a couple simple things with you right now, though… You remember how I spoke on The Great Commission this morning? Matthew 28:19 and 20 says, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” The call has been given to all Christians right there. It is the last thing Christ said on this earth before He returned to Heaven. The call has been given. God is just waiting for us to answer.

Pete: So God has already called us…

Whitman: Look. (He picks up a passport from the display table.) This is my old passport. The United States government issued it to me, and all the authority of the United States of America stands behind it in allowing me to travel throughout the world. (He holds up his Bible.) The Gospel is my authority from the Lord Himself. The Great Commission is a commandment, or a mandate to His followers that we are to go in His name—in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost—and take the Gospel throughout the world so that others may hear of Him and be saved.

Meg: So it’s not just a call, but a commandment?

Whitman: (He nods.) With all of God’s authority behind it. And not only that, but it is a commission that is personal to each one of us! (Holds up passport again.) This passport was issued to me and to me alone. (Turns pages) It says right here on page five that it is unlawful for anyone else to use it! The Great Commission is personal as well! If we are saved, we are individually to take part in the Great Commission in some way—whether it be here or abroad; whether it be through praying, giving or actually sharing the Good News of the Gospel ourselves. Our salvation is very personal thing, isn’t it? When Jesus says “Come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden,” that is very personal isn’t it? Well, someone has said, ‘Go ye’ is as much a part of Christ’s Gospel as ‘Come unto Me.’

Pete: So we need to take “Go ye” personally.

Meg: (Thoughtfully) I don’t think I ever thought of it that way before. I mean, I guess I just thought it was the church’s responsibility to do something about missions… I’m still kind of scared, though. It seems like such a huge thing!

Whitman: (Holds up passport.) This passport not only tells me that I have the authority of the US government behind me, but I also have its assistance if I run into trouble in a foreign country or have an emergency. I just have to contact the nearest US embassy or consulate. (Holds up Bible.) Matthew 28:20 says, “and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Christ promises right here in this passage to be with us always, no matter where we are in this world, when we are obeying His Great Commission. The authority and assistance of the US government is great, but how far greater is God’s authority and help! He protects and equips us for whatever He has called us to do!

Pete: There is no reason, then, to be afraid if we have a mandate from God and His promise to go with us.

Whitman: That’s right! And here’s something else. On the very first page of my passport the United States government requests that other countries allow me to enter. When I enter another country my passport is stamped. Each of these stamps inside my passport represents a nation. And each of these nations represents millions of lost souls. The Gospel is my passport to reach those lost souls, my passport to a world of lost souls! And Pete and Meg, let us never forget that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected for our salvation, is the passport to Heaven for each of those precious souls who believes in Him and accepts Him as their personal Savior.

Pete: Amen, Brother Whitman, amen. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us this morning. (They shake hands and then Pete looks at Meg.) Well, Honey, we have a lot to think about. Let’s go home and pray that the Lord will show us what He wants our part to be in the Great Commission. And I think we’d better apply for our passports—just in case! (He puts his arm around her shoulder and they walk away.)

The End

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Whether we are called to go into all the world, into our own neighborhoods, or to our own families and friends; whether we are called to preach or teach, testify, build, give or pray – if we are truly Christians we are called to be a part of the Great Commission. Those who are called to stay behind and support through prayer and finances are just as responsible to do their part as those who are called to go, and will partake of the rewards equally, as well. Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China in the late 1800’s said, “The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed.” May we each prayerfully consider if we are doing our part to reach the world for Christ.*

Finally, a few more thoughts to ponder from great men and women of God who had true hearts for missions:

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“God isn’t looking for people of great faith, but for individuals ready to follow Him”
— Hudson Taylor

“If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honor, how can a commission by a
Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?” — David Livingstone

“The Bible is not the basis of missions; missions is the basis of the Bible” – Ralph Winter

“The mission of the church is missions” — Oswald J. Smith

“We must be global Christians with a global vision because our God is a global God.” –
John Stott

“The mark of a great church is not its seating capacity, but its sending capacity.” — Mike
Stachura

“In no other way can the believer become as fully involved with God’s work, especially
the work of world evangelism, as in intercessory prayer.”
— Dick Eastman

“Prayer is the mighty engine that is to move the missionary work.” — A.B. Simpson

“‘Go ye’ is as much a part of Christ’s Gospel as ‘Come unto Me.’ — J. Stuart Holden

“I believe that in each generation God has called enough men and women to evangelize
all the yet unreached tribes of the earth. It is not God who does not call. It is man who
will not respond!” — Isobel Kuhn

“The Christian is not obedient unless he is doing all in his power to send the Gospel to
the heathen world.” — A B Simpson

“We talk of the Second Coming; half the world has never heard of the first.” — Oswald J.
Smith

“Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God” — William Carey

“Lost people matter to God, and so they must matter to us.” — Keith Wright

“If you found a cure for cancer, wouldn’t it be inconceivable to hide it from the rest of
mankind? How much more inconceivable to keep silent the cure from the eternal
wages of death.” — Dave Davidson