A picture [unavailable for this post] shows a MAF plane and pilot on a jungle airstrip. He stands in a large circle of praying adults. Older kids look about; younger ones sit naked in the grass, clustered near the middle. Differences reveal location. The black people stand straighter than the brown of South America where I served. A generic Cessna 206 sits in the grass. But the propeller blades taper to the thin point of a normally aspirated engine rather than the wide, squared-off tips of the turbocharged model we used in the Andes Mountains. So, this guy flies mostly into lower elevation airstrips. Ah yes, the pilot. I recognize him. That confirms my guess. The differences say these folks live in eastern Africa.
A maximum-weight takeoff from a 300-meter (984-foot), muddy airstrip can reveal that the shiny airplane hides poor rigging and a weak cylinder. But professional aviators know that a successful flight operation depends upon good maintenance, so we inspect our machines thoroughly. The veracity of our internal procedures determines if we accomplish our mission or not. Order parts on time, or the airplanes don’t fly. Balance the checking account, or run out of money. So, we reconcile carefully.
Some psychology courses recommend we don’t challenge delusions—fixed, false beliefs that are resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact. But who consistently holds lies so close that the lie becomes reality? Who creates their own parallel world invisible to others but granite-hard to the keeper? Is this the exclusive domain of crazies, or do we all cling to some distorted imitation of facts? Do we cherish resentment? Do we choose anxiety? Do we wallow in greed or bask in superiority?
Grace, a lovely name picked for cherished daughters by parents hoping to impart gentle softness. And we call some graceful because they move not only with coordination but also harmony and rhythm. When we speak of the Lord’s grace, we often envision sunlight on roses under a willow tree—all good and true, but incomplete.
Jesus threw us a rope while we wallowed in a sewer. He pulled us out, slimy and putrid, a dripping mass of, well, you know. Then, after He cleaned us, He said each one of us should use whatever gift we have received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. What forms does His grace take?
We believers know to do God’s will—that’s the easy part. But why should we? Because He loves us, or we love Him? Or maybe because He made the universe and knows better than anybody how it works? Or perhaps because He can zap us into cinders if we don’t? All true, but He’s concerned with our hearts.
Actions are important, but motivation trumps doing. And that’s the hard part. Rules are easy; motives are obscure. The human heart is desperately wicked, who can know it?
Fortunately, He does. He weighs every motive, every thought, every intent. Picking His way doesn’t come from mindless response. He didn’t endure the cross to create an army of robots. Instead, He demonstrates the difference between doing His will for ourselves and doing His will for Him by posing the question: “Who gets the glory, you or me?” Then, He steps back while we choose.
When we first acknowledged Jesus as Lord, most of us secretly thought, “He’s getting a pretty good deal.” Oh sure, we were in a jam and needed help, but we pictured ourselves as valuable assets to His Kingdom. We saw it as the classic win/win swap—a fair exchange where both parties bring something valuable to trade.
The truth is we brought nothing; He brought everything. We gave him all of our junk: lust, envy, idolatry, hatred, and rebellion. He, on the other hand, gave us an easy burden and a light yoke; new life, victory over sin, darkness flees at our word, death is defanged, and we get to spend forever ruling and reigning with Him. Then, as if that weren’t lopsided enough, He added, “Cast all your cares on me.”
The Plane Faith Project, directed by Pastor Jimmy Tidmore, aims high. They come alongside potential missionary pilots to help them overcome the exorbitant cost of flight training. Jimmy recently interviewed me about both my journey to the mission aviation ministry and about my book, Mile High Missionary. You can visit their website and hear the interview podcast by clicking here.
The night sky adjusts our perspective. Vast distance separates us from the stars we see. If we could fly at the speed of light (just shy of 670 million mph) it would take us 775 years to get to Rigel, the hot blue star that marks the lower right corner of Orion. An airliner could make the trip in 902 million years, while a Cessna 206 would take a bit longer—3.7 billion years, not counting downtime for maintenance.
On a practical basis, we can gaze, we can long, and we can wish, but we can’t cross. The good news is that while the stars may be unreachable, it turns out that they’re not untouchable. They send us a steady stream of photons that our retinas detect as light. Whether we open our eyes or not, we’re awash in a continual cascade of star stuff.
At Oshkosh [the world’s largest air show held annually in Oshkosh, Wisconsin] last night, a MAF recruiter told the story of a national preacher speaking to a church in the US. The preacher held up one arm saying, ”These are the prayers of all of you rising up to the throne of God.” Then he raised the other, meeting the first high over his head, and said, “And these are the prayers of the believers in my country rising up to that same throne. Though only a few of us have met here on Earth, we already know each other in the Lord.”
Have you ever wondered about the Body of Christ? What did God have in mind when He put together this motley crew of brigands? We have as many opinions about what He wants as there are members. Some days, we not only have trouble rowing together, we can’t even agree that we’re in a boat. Why does He risk His name on such a ship of fools?
Part of the answer has to be love. Paul says that as we speak the truth, we will “grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” He goes on to say that “From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” His love squishes out from the seams of our work like magic glue. It transforms a band of pirates into a company of saints.