Most people would say God and guns don’t go well together. That’s certainly how Sam Childers felt. When a newspaper headline first called him the Machine Gun Preacher, he started to cry.
Sam has never been what you’d expect from a missionary. A former biker, he struggled with addiction for many years. But soon after he converted to Christianity, he found his calling. He was shocked and appalled by the atrocities committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army, and dedicated his life to protecting children from the on-going conflicts in Central Africa.
‘About 18 years ago,’ he told Alex, ‘somebody saw me walking down the road, with an AK over my shoulder, and some children walking around me.’ The missionaries spoke about him when they returned to the US. “This guy is not a man of God!” they said. “He carries a gun! He shoots people!”
‘Somebody put a story out, and they titled it Machine Gun Preacher. And it went on some big newspaper. Somebody sent it to me, to encourage me I guess, and I read it, and I started crying. I said God, no one’s ever going to have me speak again!’
‘Stop your whining!’ God replied. ‘Claim that name! It’s your name, and it would be a great marketing tool.’
Sure enough, that name, and that iconic image, has led to books, documentaries, a biopic and even a clothing line! ‘A lot of people think that’s stupid! But you’ve got to realise, God can take the stupidest thing, and the stupidest person, like me, and He can take them clean to the top, if you’re willing to stand up for Christ.’
That’s exactly what Sam has been doing ever since. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know that he founded the Angels of East Africa orphanage with his wife. He now runs five orphanages in Sudan, taking in and protecting some of the most vulnerable children in the world.
God can take the stupidest thing, and the stupidest person, like me, and He can take them clean to the top, if you’re willing to stand up for Christ
Many people would be content with that achievement. But for Sam, it wasn’t enough. Most orphanages in the region force children to leave when they turn 15. ‘More than 70 per cent of those children end up in prostitution,’ he said. ‘So we have to do more.’
Sam is working to improve the outlook for these orphans, by offering them training in skills including farming and hospitality. ‘We’re giving them a future, by giving them a trade. And right now, it’s amazing. With the businesses we have, we’re working over 440 people a day.’
Many of the women who were wives or slaves to rebels are now in their 20s, with no education or support. ‘Their own villages don’t want them back. So a lot of these women will just walk into the bush, set down, and wait to die, because they have no future.
‘We bring them into our farm. We bring them into our restaurant. We bring them into our hotel. We give them a skill and a trade. We don’t want to keep these people working for us. We want to train them for two to three years, and then we want to get them a job outside of us, so that way they can move on, and we can train more people.’
So what does a preacher need with a machine gun? He joked that it encourages people to make bigger offerings. But he still carries a weapon, and it isn’t just for show. He lives and works in a war zone, in one of the most volatile regions in the world. He faces fear and danger every day for a living.
But when you serve God, that fear can be a great strength, because it forces you to call on Him. ‘So I don’t mind getting scared,’ Sam said, ‘and I don’t mind having fear, because those are the moments I feel closest to God. And He always fixes the problem.’
Listen to more of the interview below.
‘This will be His name: “The Lord is our Righteousness.”’ Jeremiah 23:6 NLT
The name Yahweh-Tsidkenu, The Lord our righteousness, was given by God through Jeremiah, announcing the coming of Jesus the redeemer: ‘I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line… And this will be His name: “The Lord is our Righteousness.”’ (Jeremiah 23:5–6 NLT) Before Jesus came, our righteousness lay in our own efforts. ‘We will be counted as righteous when we obey all the commands the Lord our God has given us.’ (Deuteronomy 6:25 NLT) We absolutely failed that righteousness test! But ‘The Lord our righteousness’ became our solution.
‘For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.’ (2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV) Notice: it’s only ‘in Jesus’ that we ‘become the righteousness of God’! You’re not to try to do right so you can feel righteous before God, or to generate a supply of good works to draw from when needed. You’re to draw continually from the ‘righteousness’ deposited in your account by Christ. It’s useless to look within yourself for humility, patience, kindness, love, etc. They’re not there! You must take them by faith from the supply stored up for you in Jesus. Guilty hearts can draw forgiveness, anxious spirits can draw peace, and weary souls can draw strength from Yahweh-Tsidkenu.
You received salvation by faith alone. And in the same way you must draw righteousness, and everything else you need, by faith in what God has accomplished and stored up for your use in Jesus, The Lord our righteousness!
SoulFood: Ps 51, Mark 8:34–38
word4today an adaptation of The Word For Today is authored by Bob and Debby Gass and published under licence from UCB International Copyright © 2019
51:1 Have mercy on me, O God, 34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
51:1 Have mercy on me, O God,
34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”