By Pastor Bart Elshout

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Romans 12:1

Paul here exhorts Christians to reflect on all the gospel truths he has articulated in the previous chapters. His own reflection on this caused him to end chapter eleven with a magnificent doxology, exhorting us to give all glory to Him of whom, through whom, and unto whom, are all things (Rom. 11:36).

Overflowing with adoration for the Triune God who has provided so great a salvation, Paul is saying here that in response to being the recipients of such a salvation, we owe a debt of gratitude for such a favor being bestowed upon us. Paul reminds us here that our salvation is a demonstration of the mercy of God – of the utterly unmerited favor of God. We may say here that in bestowing salvation upon us, God has given us the exact opposite of what we deserve. As sinners we deserve hell and damnation, and yet it has pleased God to bestow salvation upon us and to make us heirs of eternal life! What an extraordinary and profound favor indeed!

Given the context of the previous chapters, we know that the foundation for this salvation is the perfect sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. He truly presented His body as a living sacrifice unto God. Willingly, He gave Himself to be the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. Willingly, He allowed Himself to be slain on Calvary’s cross so that by the shedding of His precious blood the foundation could be laid upon which a holy and righteous God could be merciful to sinners. What a comfort it is to know that His sacrifice was truly holy and acceptable to God – a fact confirmed by the rending of the veil of the temple, and by the resurrection of His Son! Based on the fact that the Father has fully accepted the finished work of His Son, believers may therefore know that they are holy and acceptable in His sight.

It is the realization of that profound and glorious truth that must motivate the believer to give his life as a living sacrifice unto God. In other words, the fact that Christ gave Himself for us should motivate us to give ourselves wholly to Him – a life that is utterly devoted to Him, His glory, and His cause. For meriting so great a salvation for us, we owe our Savior a life-long debt of gratitude. The more we reflect on His inexpressible love for us, the more we should be motivated to love Him in return. The more we reflect on His self-sacrificing love for us, the more we should be motivated to live a self-sacrificing life for Him – a life in which we willingly use all our talents, energy, and resources for the advancement of the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dear believer, are you presenting your life as a living sacrifice to the Christ who gave Himself as a ransom for you? This is your reasonable service!

Rev. Bart Elshout is pastor of the Heritage Reformed Church in Chilliwack, British Columbia.

By Rick Postma

When someone is very ill and the physician makes the wrong diagnosis, an incorrect remedy is inevitably prescribed with often serious, even fatal consequences.

Few will argue that we live in a world characterized by suffering, poverty, illness, addiction, war and disaster. Where the difference arises is in the diagnosis. We at Word & Deed are firmly convinced that the problem is rooted in one little word: sin. Given that diagnosis, the biblical remedy follows: Christ.

Many, even in the Christian community, would accuse us of over-simplification. In some cases, this charge is due to the assumption that the solution is to simply preach the Gospel, wash our hands, and depart the scene with a sense of having fulfilled our duty. Nothing could be further from the truth. Christ Himself is a model of how we are to respond to those in need – lovingly feeding the hungry, healing the sick and ministering to their souls.

For others, the charge of over-simplification is the assumption that Christianity is something you nod to occasionally by reading the Bible and praying, while giving the vast majority of your energy to the latest secular solutions to the world’s problems. But this contradicts the Christian worldview and comes close to functional atheism. If the problem is sin, then the solution involves repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, and grace, together with numerous biblical prescriptions for a just society: a considerate response to the needs of the poor (Psalm 41:1, Luke 10:37); sanctity of marriage (including a biblical view of sexuality); biblical roles for husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children; the blessing of work; the covenant family; obedience to and respect for civil governments and much more.

A biblically considerate response to the needs of the poor often results in solutions directly opposed to our first instincts. Showering the poor with funds, goods and free labor does more harm than good, as is so effectively pointed out in When Helping Hurts – How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor ... and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert (highly recommended!). Instead, recognizing the gifts and talents that God has given every person, we are to come alongside the poor, supplementing only as necessary. They will build their own homes, provide for their own families and, by God’s grace, love the Lord their God with all their heart soul and mind and their neighbor as themselves.

In this issue, we highlight the importance of volunteers by profiling two of them (Tanya Byl and Dick Naves) and providing a fascinating article by a third – Caroline VanDyken in Malawi. Rev. Elshout brings us face to face with the biblical necessity of the believer presenting his or her life as a living sacrifice to Christ in his meditation. Other articles highlight new projects in Ecuador and Sumba, Indonesia. This issue also includes the latest on Haiti at press time and a recent trip to Guatemala. May you have a safe and blessed summer.

Rick Postma is Director of Public Relations for Word & Deed Ministries.
By Rev. Greg Bylsma

It was January 12, 2010, when the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Since that day, prayers have been significantly increased for the people of Haiti and the work of various mission organizations within that nation. Where able, gospel workers sought to continue their work there, bringing the gospel to as many people as they could in as effective a way as possible. In a nation that had literally come unhinged, some saw with increasing clarity the dramatic need for the gospel and, by God’s grace, were rising up, Word in hand, to fill the gap.

In times of crisis, God frequently reminds us of the importance of the Gospel that has been entrusted to us. Let us remember:

The Urgency of the Gospel Call (Luke 13:1-5)
When Jesus was faced with the tragic loss of human life, He used the situation to drive home to His listeners the urgency of repentance. He told a parable of a barren fig tree with which the owner of a vineyard had become disgusted. The tree simply never bore fruit, and hence its time had come to be torn up. After the command came for it to be cut down, however, the keeper of the vineyard interceded: ‘One more year of care. If it hasn’t born fruit in one more year then you can cut it down.’

I remember as a young man being terrified with the thought, “What if my year is almost up?” Looking at the devastation in Haiti, this is a message we need to consider again. The urgent call of the gospel cannot be ignored or put off. Today must be the day of salvation.

The Task of the Church
The urgency of the gospel is not to be applied merely to ourselves and our own need to turn continually to Christ, but also to the millions who stand outside of Christ even as you read this letter. In Jesus’ earthly ministry, He repeatedly looked upon the crowds with compassion and mourned the lost state of sinners’ souls. He called His church to make disciples of the nations, and commanded them to begin their witness in the very city that had rejected Him (Acts 1:8).

The calling of the church to be witnesses for Christ is no less urgent today than it was hundreds of years ago. If anything, the knowledge that our “salvation is nearer than when we first believed” should drive us with increasing zeal to be found faithful in the calling God has laid upon us. The work of the gospel, both at home and abroad, is not to be delayed for passing pleasures and comforts. Jesus has given the command, and the front page news of our day has reminded us of the need.

If we have eyes to see, life all around us reminds us that there is a dramatic need for the gospel. Similarly, the Bible reminds us that in Christ, and by His Spirit, we have the means to meet it.

May we rise up with Scripture in hand to fill the gap.

Greg Bylsma is the pastor of Bethel United Reformed Church in Woodstock, Ontario.
By Rick Postma

In the wake of the disaster in Haiti and in addition to the outpouring of support for the disaster there, there are many, especially in the media, who are raising questions about God: “Has God abandoned Haiti?”, as well as variations on the regular question “How can there be a good God when evil exists?” The broader Christian community offers an equally broad set of answers. Many of them suggest that disasters are beyond God’s control. What often emerges is a God doing His best but who is just as surprised by disasters as we are.

The question of evil is a difficult one. What we do know, however, is that any answer that undermines God’s character as clearly portrayed in God’s Word, cannot be true. God is sovereign and almighty. For God to be surprised by a catastrophic event would be a contradiction of who He is.

The questions raised above imply an underlying accusation – God isn’t being fair. But isn’t the proper question, “If God were to be fair, who of us could survive His judgement?” It is because the Lord is compassionate that we aren’t consumed (Lamentations 3:22). Are the people of Haiti any worse than we are? No. In fact it could be argued that as nations of the western world we deserve God’s judgement far more. Surely then, we must stand back in awe at a merciful God and as we see and hear about the suffering of the Haitians, we can only respond, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Word & Deed Ministries, together with you, has the privilege of being instruments in the hands of a merciful God as we strive to bring help to the needy in the developing world. In this issue, Arlene Jonkman of Ecuador Missions shares with us the blessings the Lord is bringing to the Sunday School Teacher Curriculum project and John Otten tells us about his recent trip to Nicaragua. Some light is shed on Haiti by taking a brief look at her troubled history since the disaster recovery projects for that suffering country are still in the planning phases as this magazine goes to print. In all this, as Pastor Bylsma explains in the meditation, the urgency of the Gospel is paramount.

May our sovereign and compassionate God have mercy on the people of Haiti, and on us. Great is His faithfulness.

Rick Postma is director of public relations for Word & Deed Ministries.

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What do you know about Malawi?

For starters, Malawi is a long, skinny, country in the southern half of Africa. It shares borders with Mozambique, Zambia, and Tanzania. It’s land-locked, which means it has no ocean harbors. You’ll notice from the map, though, that a huge lake (Lake Malawi, or Lake Nyasa) runs the length of the country. The people of Malawi are called Malawians, and there are about 10 million of them.Malawi’s climate is pretty much opposite to ours in North America: from November to April, it’s hot and wet, and from May to October, it’s cold and dry. In Lilongwe, the capital city, the hottest it gets is 36˚C/97˚F. The cold isn’t quite like our cold – the coldest temperature is usually around 7˚C/45˚F. So no one in Malawi has a snowsuit.

Primary school starts at age six and goes on for eight years. At the end of Grade 8, students write an exam to see if they will be allowed a place in secondary school. Many more Malawian children go to school now that it is free. But the increase in students means that there are not enough classrooms, bathrooms, or teachers. School often takes place under trees, which sounds wonderful until the weather turns cold or it starts to rain. In many places, clean water and toilets are missing. Hmmmm. And 200 students often share three teachers. But at least all children now have some chance of learning.

Hey, Kids!

Malawi Toy Challenge

Like many children in African countries, kids in Malawi usually don’t have toys from the store. What little money parents have is used for food and shelter. But think about what you have done in your backyards with big boxes, leftover bricks, and firewood! Kids in Malawi don’t let a shortage of money stop them from playing – they use their imaginations to make toys from garbage. Think of balls made from bags and tape or push-cars made from wire.

This is my challenge to you:
Build a toy car from your family’s garbage. Send me a photograph of your creation, along with a list of its construction materials, your name and hometown, and we’ll publish them in a future issue of Word & Deed.

Materials to start:
- empty milk carton
- four jar lids
- straight sticks, dowels, straws or strong wire
Use whatever you like to improve your design, but your supplies must come from the garbage, recycling, or from bits of things likely to be found around the house (i.e. not pipe cleaners, but yes to twist ties or bits of wire).

Let’s see what kind of imaginations you have!

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