Monthly Archives: June 2018

Great Heart

It was dark.

A small candle flickered in an open upstairs bedroom window this balmy fall evening.

The tall, well-built man, handsomely distinguished in his neatly trimmed beard and mustache, gently cradled the little boy in his arms.

He was only three.

The tiny lad was frail. He gasped for air. His father, with tears in his eyes, walked the hallways of the large home, carrying the boy in his arms, sometimes for an hour or more. He would gently whisper and sing to him until finally the boy fell asleep.

The doctors said it was acute asthma.

The boy was weak. He was timid. What would become of him?

Would he one day die in his loving father’s strong but helpless arms?

On some late nights, when his son couldn’t sleep for the torment of the coughing, the father would hitch up his horses to the carriage and take the boy on long rides around the city, hoping the cool air would help him breathe.

When the lad was five, his father would force him to smoke black cigars; the doctors insisted they had curative powers.

As the boy grew older, though still skinny and weak, he displayed a keen intelligence and insatiable curiosity about life around him, especially the fascinations of nature. With his watchful father’s encouragement, he began collecting and cataloguing all manner of insects, fauna, rocks, birds and fish.

By the age of twelve, the son was an accomplished taxidermist. Stuffed animals were found everywhere.

The father was a successful and very wealthy businessman. He was also generous with his money. He taught his family many noble things, chief among them that with great wealth and privilege came great moral responsibility.

He took the words of the Lord seriously: “To whom much is given, from him much will be required.”

He donated to dozens of charities. He generously supported the YMCA and was a commissioner of the State Board of Charities and a director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Museum of Natural History.

In his love and devotion to his family, in his courage and honesty, in his sterling reputation in the community, and in his generous concern for humankind, this father was an example who won the awe-filled admiration and respect of his children.

Including the weak one. The runt of the litter.

He gave them his time. He gave them his attention. He gave them his praise.

His two sons and two daughters gave him a love that would never end.

They adored him.

He was their hero.

When they were grown, they nick-named him Great Heart. He was the strong protector and compassionate spiritual guide in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress.

The name fit.

So did the psalm:

“I will be careful to live a blameless life … I will lead a life of integrity in my own home”(Psalm 101:2).

The influence and example; the wisdom and encouragement; the love and support of a righteous dad is incalculable and lasts a lifetime.

The sickly child had promise. The wise father knew that. He would help him.

He built a gymnasium in an upstairs room and encouraged his son to exercise.

The boy did.

The father hired a personal trainer. The son lifted weights and learned to box. His dad told his friends and took a joyful pride in the emerging transformation.

He watched over his son. He hoped for him, exhorted him and prayed for him.

The young man didn’t die. He grew stronger – and more confident.

While the son was away at college, it was the father who became ill and passed away. He was only 46 years old. His son grieved inconsolably over the loss of the most important person in his life.

He could never be replaced. Nor would he ever be forgotten.

The young man went on to live an extraordinary life. The father who loved him, held him, nurtured him and urged him on would be forever with him, a constant reminder of what it meant to be “an ideal man.”

Years later, after his own success far eclipsed his dad’s, the son placed his father’s portrait over his desk.

If only he could see him now. He wouldn’t have been too old.

“My father was the greatest man I ever knew,” the son wrote. “He combined strength and courage with gentleness, tenderness, and great unselfishness.”

To him he owed so much.

“My father got me breath, he got me lungs, strength, life. I could breathe, I could sleep when he had me in his arms.”

His father had also taught him action, courage and standing for what’s right. He taught him to care about the less fortunate, those left out and left behind.

He taught him both strength and compassion.

This son would never forget the lessons and example of the great and noble man whose name he proudly bore.

His father.

Theodore Roosevelt.

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109,000 and Counting

Shhh!

Nobody knows!

This may be the best-kept secret in American Christendom.

After nearly half a century, most Christians in this country have never heard of Haggai International.

It’s arguably the most exciting and inspiring ministry in the world.

It’s unquestionably unique.

In 1969, American evangelist and pastor Dr. John Edmund Haggai (graduate of Moody Bible Institute and preacher par excellence) had a vision for a new approach to global evangelism. While his own father’s Syrian family had been led to embrace Christianity through the work of western missionaries, Dr. Haggai discovered what he believed was a better idea.

Why not identify and equip gifted and courageous Christian leaders in other nations to reach their own people with the Gospel?

No visas required. No language training. No preparation in cultural sensitivity needed.

Instead, ready on Day One to make a powerful difference.

John Haggai based his new vision for world evangelism on two premises.

First, start at the top.

Start with gifted, respected and high-placed leaders. Seventy-five percent of all Haggai leaders are in the marketplace, not professional ministers. They are CEOs, doctors, lawyers, diplomats, judges and government officials.

Dr Haggai believed that men and women already known and respected in their own nations would have the best opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with a greater number of people. Because they already had influence their influence could be leveraged more quickly and effectively for Christ.

Secondly, it takes one to know one.

By preparing leaders in evangelism who are indigenous to the culture, it would be easier and more effective to share the Gospel in ways that are culturally sensitive and would make more sense to the unsaved people being reached.

Trust could be more easily and firmly established through the shared bonds of a common heritage. A mutual understanding, born of similar experience and background.

The first reaction on the part of many Christian leaders in the U.S. was negative.

Foreign followers of Christ couldn’t be counted on to present the Gospel – and do it right. This was the classic American superiority – nobody can do anything as well as Americans can.

When the president of the National Association of Evangelicals accused Haggai of “setting back missions 50 years” with his new model for fulfilling the Great Commission, he answered this would hardly be ambitious enough.

“I was trying to set back the cause of missions 2,000 years!”

Sure enough, a careful study of the New Testament and the early church showed that Christianity was spread by those who knew the culture and the language because many of them came from that same language and culture.

After Jesus cured the demoniac in the Gadarenes, the grateful man asked to travel with Jesus and his disciples.

Jesus declined.

“No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been” (Mark 5:19).

Mark says that this once tormented and now joy-filled man traveled extensively throughout the Greek-speaking Decapolis sharing the news about Jesus.

Our Lord knew this radically transformed man would be more effective in winning Greek converts than a Jewish rabbi would.

The woman at the well converted many in her own community. She was a Samaritan.

The eunuch led to faith in Christ by Phillip returned to his influential leadership as the queen’s treasurer. He was an Ethiopian and went back to his own land and his own culture. The Bible says he returned rejoicing – just as Haggai leaders do.

How the treasurer shared his new found faith is a mystery but it’s almost certain he did.

Since Haggai International’s first training in the fall of 1969, this amazing ministry has prepared for evangelism more than 109,000 leaders in 188 nations. Each one of these extraordinary leaders has equipped at least 100 more in his or her own land.

The multiplication can be fully recorded only in Heaven.

Once concerned about the adverse impact of publicity on the safety of its leaders in threatening places, Haggai today, given the transformation of social media, is intent on getting as well-known as possible. The ministry has recently launched a legacy campaign in preparation for its 50th anniversary next year.

It’s also announced a new motto and goal for all its faithful efforts and incredible results:

Ending Gospel Poverty.

Nothing matters more in our troubled world.

Nothing was more important to Jesus Christ who gave us his final command – go and make disciples of all the nations.

Haggai International is the Green Beret of global evangelism. Its leaders are gifted, highly trained, dedicated, prepared, precise in their objectives, and wise in their tactics.

They’re going places no one else can go. Reaching lost souls no one else can reach.

The Haggai model is unique.

Dr. Haggai, our Founder, is still going strong at 94. Though he no longer leads the ministry, his passion for the Gospel is undiminished, his vision, like Moses’, undimmed.

“There is only one answer,” he insists, “reconciliation to God and to each other through Jesus Christ. Governments cannot bring peace. Education cannot bring salvation. Business and industry cannot bring healing. Psychology and sociology cannot bring joy.

Only Christ can bring reconciliation to the world.”

That’s worth remembering in this deeply troubled and divided time.

More than 109,000 brave and gifted leaders from around the world – joyful men and women who love Christ and are determined to share his love with their own people – would say “Amen!”

“Every nation redeemed and transformed through the Gospel of Jesus Christ”

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