It seems like it should be pretty obvious, but society continues to reveal how much it needs to be stated...
It's difficult to increase in faith with increasing in sin, immorality and depravity at the same time.
I say it should be obvious, because as I went through yesterday, nothing really stood out as a topic for today's post. When I went to bed last night, I thought, perhaps, God will give me something new altogether when I awake... which He did. But really, God... that's news?
And yet it seems many both inside and outside Christianity attempt to walk both paths, as if the lanes don't eventually part and go in completely opposite directions.
Of course within Christianity, this is a more glaring reflection of our broken humanity, and yet if we would walk in ever-increasing faith, perhaps we would be a greater, more impactful reflection of Christ.
People think Christianity is complex and yet, it is amazingly simple.
And while the simpleness would lead one to believe it should be easy, it is, in fact, incredibly difficult. Which is perhaps, we the emphasis of taking up our cross and following Christ is placed on doing so Daily.
As such, the conversation between the believer and the non-believer can turn in to quite the on-going process; which is perhaps why so many testimonies exist of people who heard the Gospel for years before finally coming to faith in Christ.
So, on this #missionsFriday, let's pray for missionaries. Pray for renewed strength, even as they daily take up their cross and continue in their personal journey of faith in Christ. The road is hard and sometimes lonely, may the presence of God be their constant companion. May their lives and ministries be effective in reflecting Christ and may their efforts be effective in reaching and revealing the brokenness of humanity and our need for a Savior. Pray for renewed strength, especially during the season of increased spiritual reflection, and life's meaning and purpose.
May all live a life
That desires above all else
A closer walk with God.
For His glory and purpose
And the cause of Jesus Christ.
I was reminded yesterday, of the phrase that has changed the life of Mitch Albom, who did not consider himself a generous person until having spent a considerable amount of time with an individual; the story of which he discusses in his book, Tuesdays With Morrie.
The principle is simply this...
"Giving is living."
Interestingly enough, unbeknownst to him, our worship pastor during this week's Wednesday night service, explained how our lives can be like one of two seas.
We can be like the Sea of Galilee or the Dead Sea.
The difference between the two, is the existence of an outlet.
The Dead Sea, does not have one. It continually receives. Water enters. But it never exits. And so the very thing that was meant to bring life and refreshing, ultimately becomes death, because it stops moving; it stops flowing. All because after it has been received, it does not continually release.
Thus, the water loses it's life-giving power and what is meant to be sustained by the water soon becomes constrained by the water.
Conversely, the Sea of Galilee does not experience the phenomenon. For it has an exit. It has a release, from which it gives what it receives. As such, life in that body of water is sustained.
So, it begs the question. If Christ is the Living Water, what is His affect on our lives? Are we giving and releasing, what has been given and received by us? Yes, there is our time, our abilities and our resources, but most importantly, there is the life of Jesus Christ.
Those who refresh others, will themselves, be refreshed.
Pray, this #missionsFriday, that we would be people who would give. Pray for missionaries, that as the give and share the Gospel, that they will be strengthened and renewed. Indeed, may they be refreshed as they give their lives to the work of the Kingdom of God as Christ gave His life for us, that we may live. Pray today would be a trans-formative day as the truth of God is shared and experienced by those who are spiritually dead, they would receive Living Water. May today be a day of miracles; of life, of refreshing, of hope, meaning, clarity and purpose.
For the glory of God
And the cause of Jesus Christ.
So, I'm watching the news late last night, which I don't normally do, whether late news or the regular evening hour, and it's simply unbelievable. Of course, you are hearing the stories and reading the reports and opinions and social media is outraged... again, on both sides of the issues.
And as I considered what might be in store for #missionsFriday after a number of different ideas had roamed around, but never really developed, I had an epiphany on the short commute home from work.
Are you ready? Here it is.
What happens in Genesis, if Adam and Eve, immediately upon recognizing that they had disobeyed God, went and called upon His name.
"Lord, we did a thing. In fact, not just any thing; but the very specific, single thing you told us not to engage in."
We're witnessing, as if we needed more evidence, what happens when wrongdoings are discovered after the fact, apparently even years and decades later. Far less frequently do we witness the outcome when confession of wrongdoing and more importantly, sin, is quick and immediate.
Meanwhile, society and culture continue to want less to do with God, the people of God and the application of Biblical principles while we discuss and surmise solutions to a flawed humanity with a sinful nature. It's both sad and frustrating to watch.
That said, here is the power and motivation of the Gospel. If we fear the public's response to the degree that we keep the wrong that lies within us under silence, how much more, should God's response to the unconfessed sin in our lives, both for the believer and non-believer, be problematic for our conscience?
Positions of prominence and influence aside, how quickly should we desire to come clean with God, as well as help others do the same.
On this #missionsFriday, pray for quickening in hearts, minds and spirits; that regardless of the status of one's relationship with God, people would find themselves in a place and posture of confession. Pray for a revelation, that humanity will never "find" a solution for any of our moral ailments until we experience a return to repentance. Pray for missionaries, both at home and abroad, who are on the front lines of speaking into the lives of those who have no concept or understanding of God and the power of Jesus Christ.
May today be a banner day for the kingdom of God
That many would not wait to be found by God,
But to seek Him first of their own volition.
For we are desperately flawed and hopelessly in need of a Savior.
May we not wait another minute.
To experience the love, grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
Another inspired moment that I didn't see coming as relevant to a #missionsFriday post, but here it is... courtesy of a Christmas movie that was playing on the Hallmark channel last night.
We all lead busy lives, full of a delicate balance of joy and frustration, rest and stress. But there is power when we aside ourselves for the benefit of someone else.
As was conveyed by a character in the movie (and of course, now that I'm typing it, I can't remember the exact wording)
We become the best version of ourselves when we care for others.
And what an interesting day to be reminded of that truth... on Black Friday. As the memes state on social media, the day we rush the storefront to buy more things just hours after having spent a full day in a attitude of gratitude and thanksgiving. Granted many are getting presents, but still... we are focused on the earthly gifts rather than the eternal Gift.
So it's possible to suffer from burnout by caring too much too often for others.
And it's miserable to be so concerned with self and entirely miss great moments of small miracles that only happen through the care and compassion of blessing others.
Thus, the balance is to neither rely on ourselves, nor look to ourselves, but to remain focused on God and be active in our care for those around us.
On this #missionsFriday, pray not only for missionaries, but for the body of Christ as a whole. May we be about the care and concern for others, for indeed, it is not only how we become the best version of ourselves, but the best representation of Christ to a lost and dying world. Pray that we would seek to use our blessings to be a blessing to others. May we not be so quick to receive for our own benefit, but to give away for the benefit of others.
For as God shared His Son with the world,
So too may we share what Christ has done in our hearts and lives
With those who've yet to experience
The eternal Gift that is greater than anything Earth has to offer.
For the cause of Jesus Christ.
While listening to the Dave Ramsey show yesterday on the radio (which I encourage everyone today) I was reminded of just how simple (and easy) it is to speak life into those who aren't feeling alive. Whether it be having an off-day or borderline despair, what does it really cost to say "I believe in you."
We are so quick to allow our frustrations and emotions dominate our day... and they dominate our day, because of our mind and where we allow it to go. We hear, acknowledge and conform to the message of society that is focused on rights and offenses and the correction of all sorts of injustices. And I'm not saying there's not a legitimate element there and a time and place for such a discussion. However, we are to be people who are transformed by the renewing of our mind.
It costs us nothing to believe in those around us.
However, it did cost Christ everything to send the message that God believes in us and that we are too believe in Him.
There is not one human experience or emotion that Christ hasn't endured. Rejection, betrayal, loneliness, homelessness, false accusation (by both the establishment and public opinion).
Yet I heard a powerful explanation regarding the Christian faith.
Jesus is not in Heaven pleading with the Father to add one more name in the Book of Life.
Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to plead with man to call on the Father that their name would be added.
The responsibility to accept Christ is on humanity, yet the power of Christianity is in the relationship established through testimony. I've been where you are, yet I believe...
So pray, this #missionsFriday, for missionaries who are working to advance the Gospel. May they be strength and encouraged as they work to build relationships and communicate the power of the Gospel of Christ to an ever-increase world who needs to know they need Jesus. Pray for hearts and minds of lives who are search for answers and understanding. May today be the day they come to know the person of Jesus Christ. For those missionaries struggling with burnout and tiredness, may they rely anew on the power of God; to rise one more day, call on the name of the Lord and believe in the power of God that today would be a day of the miraculous as lives as transformed.
Indeed, may people not conform to the world,
But transformed; by the power of God
May His Word come alive in hearts
And active in our lives.
That they world would see
They need Jesus.
I'm chuckling, just a little bit, but also, incredibly self-conscious, as I consider where I've missed the mark. We talked yesterday regarding Moses and Aaron and for whatever reason, their not following through on a direct instruction from God.
Meanwhile, yesterday afternoon, as I continued through Numbers, in chapter 22, is the story of Balaam. And again, God gives a clear direction to Balaam, regarding whether he should go with the princes of Moab and Balaam goes... not waiting for the prerequisite that God instructed him to wait upon.
Of course, the cool part of the story is that God speaks to Balaam through his donkey.
But the powerful part of the story is what was going on in the spirit realm. Balaam's life is spared because another being in his life sensed something was going on and was attempting to protect him. Balaam didn't realize what was going on, but someone (in this case, his donkey) knew better.
Yet this is why God speaks to Balaam through his donkey. Balaam, unaware, keeps trying to move forward... not thinking anything was wrong. The angel of the Lord who stands before him even acknowledges, Balaam wouldn't not have survived.
All of this got me thinking... how much trouble to we get into because we don't heed the spiritual warnings to back off, turn away or even, turn around. Hence, my aforementioned, self-conscious chuckle.
This further affirmed last night, by a piece written by Herman Cain, on his explanation of why mass shootings are becoming so frequent. It's a brilliant write up that I highly recommend, but he "pens" these words are he bring his thoughts to a close:
"It's because we've arrived at a consensus that we don't need God, and we can work out right and wrong for ourselves. So people do. Or they just disregard the whole idea and perpetrate evil, because hey, why not?"
Such a perception and thought process that permeates this culture creates quite a block to any evangelistic efforts. What's worse, is that at times, even Christians and those in ministry can find themselves, at a place of either not needing God or not needing God as much. Of course, this is a dangerous place to be, for what if you missing the warning signs that would keep you from all kinds of trouble and perhaps, even certain death.
So, let's pray this #missionFriday, that missionaries would rely all the more on God and His Word. May their be an awareness in their lives and from those they surround themselves with, to know what is at work in the spirit realm and where God is directing them. Pray for their efforts to reach the lost with the Gospel. May God break through and tear down these walls and misconceptions about Him that culture has seemingly embraced ever so tightly in recent years. Pray for hearts and minds to be changed and transformed. May we ever alert to the leading and guiding of the Spirit and the power of God at work in our lives. Pray for a massive move of repentance and returning to God, before it is too late.
That we would be people who seek God.
To obey His Word.
To speak the truth
And change our world.
All with the help of God alone.
For the glory of God
And the advancement of the cause of Christ.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
What is wrong, slowly becomes more acceptable. What was rare and infrequent has become the oft-repeated normal.
A pastor relayed the contents of a conversation he had recently with a young man from India who had visited the church. The two of them talked for a few moments, when the young man asked the pastor to keep his hometown in prayer; for the in the week prior to their conversation, tragedy had struck.
More like evil, actually.
As it turns out the local mob had paid a visit. To the missionaries. Where the broke both their arms and the legs. Solely for being Christian.
It was the same pastor who stated a perspective that we don't often think of... at least I don't, for reasons unknown. The very first recorded act of persecution. Do you know the answer? It also happens to be the first ever recorded act of murder.
Cain and Abel. Cain killed Able because Abel's sacrifice was acceptable and righteous and Cain's was not. Able was killed for his faith and relationship with Almighty God.
As this pastor stated:
The first to be murdered was the first to be martyred.
One source estimates that anywhere between 100,000 to 150,000 Christians are killed annually for their faith. A British study from a year or two ago, put out a conservative estimate at 105,000.
105,000 killed annually.
288 per day.
12 per hour.
1... every. 5. minutes.
One martyr every five minutes.
At 150,000.... 411 per day. 34 per hour. 1.4 every 2.5 minutes. How utterly insane is this? Yet we should not be surprised when this happens. It's also going to become more frequent.
Yet society and culture continue to push for openness and diversity, acceptance and tolerance; freedom to be and do whoever and whatever one desires and feels like, truly, on any given day.
But for the Christian...well, you're reading the same social media status updates and commentaries as I am. And the 100,000+ that aren't being murdered, hundreds of thousands more are being ridiculed and mocked. And never making headline news are the bodies being beaten and broken for the cause of Jesus Christ; even though they are a worse human rights violence than one's "right" to be offended. God help us all.
And pray this #missionsFriday, for those missionaries and Christians around the globe that are experiencing unbelievable persecution, beyond our belief, but quite the norm over the centuries. Pray for this society and culture who continues to reject God and mock and torture those who profess their belief in Him. Pray for a strengthening and a quickening for those suffering for the sake of Christ. May God work the miraculous through their lives, through their testimonies, and through their ministries. May their labor not be in vain, but produce the fruit for which the seeds of the Gospel were planted.
May God bring a healing to the land
As we are brought to a place of repentance
That we would turn from our wicked ways
And fall at the face of God and the feet of Christ
For His Word will not return void.
Every knee will one day bow.
What a day that will be.
So I was having a parenting moment last night, as I considered the sacrifices that parents make for their kids. And even moreso, the sacrifices families make for ministry.
There's a power message I heard recently... you can listen to it here:
Towards the end of this message, the pastor tells the story of a small church pastor and his wife who were compelled to give to the feeding program that this pastor was running. Having nothing to give on a particular Sunday morning, the pastor and his wife, unknowingly to each other, both gave their wedding rings as a gift for the feeding program. They weren't worth much to the pawn shop, so our story-teller didn't know what to do. The next Sunday he shares this story. A man afterwards asks if he still has the rings. He buys the rings, on the condition that the money is given to the feeding program and the rings are returned to the pastor and his wife.
The man paid a great price for those rings.
The pastor returns to the small church to give back the rings. The husband refuses. The pastor says, what do you want me to do? Tell the story again.
And another buys the rings on the condition they will be returned. And bought and returned. And bought and returned. Who knows how many times, but you have to listen to the sermon to hear the amount that raised for this feeding program, through the sacrificial giving a pastor and his wife, whose own church was struggling. It's unbelievably mind-blowing. But God.
Ministry requires giving. And I'll be the first to admit and confess, I'm not giving enough. Maybe you are. Maybe you aren't. But eternity is at stake. While even missionaries suffer burnout and leave the field, there are many that are heading into the field. They need our prayers. They need our gifts... more than we need our stuff and toys and lifestyle and our kids, more stuffed toys.
Pray this #missionsFriday, that God would provide. May He lay it on the hearts of His people to give where they can't go; to send where they cannot step themselves. For we all have struggles, trials and tribulations, but they all fade and pass in light of those who've yet to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Pray eyes would be opened and hearts would be changed as the power of the message of the Cross of Christ goes forth, from every corner of the church to every corner of the Earth.
For we are blessed to be a blessing
None of it is ours
Nor can we take it with us when we die.
It is all God's, as we are His.
Stewards for a short time
In light of the eternal glory that awaits.
One day, in the presence of the Lord.
For the cause of Jesus Christ.
I heard an update earlier this week on the interest of missions which is incredibly awesome news. There is a denomination that has a missions program geared towards preparing those who want to come along side and assist missionaries in their efforts. From what I understand they offer the classes twice a year and the fall session is FULL! Like very full; can't possibly add on one more person, even as a personal favor to someone with a little bit of clout.
What a great problem to have!
Missions has always been hard work and will always and forever continue to be full of challenge, difficulty and frustration, but also what an incredible eternal reward. What an impact and a blessing to know that help is on the way; and not just for a handful of missionaries, but for many.
For if we believe in the power of one to make a difference, what will happen when two join together? Does not Scripture tells us they get a greater return for the efforts? The return on their investment multiplies exponentially. Consider it the process of eternal compound interest.
And let's pray, this #missionsFriday, that God would do a great work for those going through the process of preparing for the missions field. Whether they are going as a missionary or to come along side and help, may God accomplish the miraculous through their combined efforts. May hearts, minds, souls and bodies being strengthened as they labor together for the kingdom of God. Pray for the continued obedience of those who are called; for ministry is an absolute reliance upon God for all living and sustainability. Pray they would be encouraged and empowered as they are equipped. May they witness the greatest return on a personal investment of time, resources, abilities and prayer that has ever been know.
For the angels in heaven rejoice
When even one's name is added to the Book of Life.
For the glory of God
For the cause of Jesus Christ.
"It's the knowledge of sin that is the beginning of Gospel grace." - James MacDonald
James has been preaching a powerful sermon on the Holy Spirit that is currently being broadcast, and this statement is so simple yet empowered with truth. So often we try to make things happen when the conversation turns to matters of faith.
But there's two important things to remember...
It is not ours to convince.
It is not ours to convict.
Yet, as we've discussed a few ties in recent months, society's determination to label and relabel the issues and problems of the day seem to hinder the evangelistic process. How can God do what He needs to do, if we don't understand the condition of our lives as He sees them?
This disconnect leads to many problems... both for the unbeliever who continues to live without a relationship with God, as well as for the believer, when we prevent the Holy Spirit from working in us to greater reflect the character and person of Jesus Christ.
We should have an awareness and sensitivity of the refining power of the Holy Spirit as much as we pray people would have an awareness and sensitivity to the redemptive power of the cross of Jesus Christ.
Thus, on this #missionsFriday, let us pray to that end. Pray for an openness to receive the Gospel as well as open doors to share the same. Pray the continued work of the Holy Spirit, to work both in refining the believer and convicting the unbeliever. May we continue to place our trust in God, rely on Him for all that we have need, seek His face and live out His will for our lives. Pray the truth of His Word would continue to impact, lead and direct all who hear and read it.
Indeed, may we be better readers.
By the power of the Holy Spirit
By the grace of God
For the cause of Jesus Christ.
I continue to stand amazed... by a society and people who wants right to be done and truth to be told and yet circumstance and conversation continue to seemingly contradict that sentiment.
The right thing fails to be done or said, then we excuse and dismiss why this dilemma exists while demanding it be corrected. We want the truth to count, yet we've dismissed and discredited the sources of the truth and furthermore, all but abandoned the concept of there being absolute truth. People desire the truth to be told, but all too often aren't ready to hear it, let alone receive it.
We hope people do the right thing while encouraging them that their feelings matter and they should act and respond accordingly.
News flash... feelings get it wrong!!
Meanwhile, society doesn't live based on truth, but based on what works.
John Macarthur was preaching on these concepts and summed up today's world quite nicely, if you'll permit my paraphrasing.
We've justified what's wrong in our lives by naming it anything other than what it is: SIN.
The double standards that now permeate our life and times are astounding. And I'll stand with the Apostle Paul on this matter... I'm there. Chief of Sinners? Well, to prove my point, I don't feel like the Chief of them, but one day, my rank as sinner won't matter; just what I've done with the identity label of sinner.
And here's the convicting point of the matter...
There is a direct correlation between the closeness of our relationship with God and our sensitivity towards sin itself.
God has nothing to do with sin. Thus, more of God will crowd out sin. His presence will continue to point out and put His finger on things and areas do not reflect Christ. Correspondingly, less of God will leave room for everything else; that is neither permissible or beneficial. Let the floodgates open that sin may enter without fear of the presence of God overflowing the property of our heart.
On this #missionsFriday, let it be said... the Christian faith is not for the faint of heart. And so, let's pray that God would move afresh on hearts and lives, both within and outside the walls of the church. For the proclaimed Christian, may their faith be truth and steadfast, as it has been said that many will stand before God and say "Lord, Lord..." and yet be turned away. For the unbeliever that wants to know the truth, pray they would be ready not only to hear it, but also receive it. Pray for a return in this world, to understand right and wrong in light of God's Word. May we not live based on feelings and successful efforts, but on the love of God and the truth of His commands. Pray this day, we be drawn ever closer to the presence of His glory and that the Holy Spirit would grant us what we have need of, as God places His finger of areas that need to be transformed, that we may greater reflect the character of Jesus Christ. May today be a great day, of repentance and salvation for the kingdom of God.
For indeed, we are all sinners
And we have all fallen short of His glory.
Yet because of the Cross
And the work of the Holy Spirit
We are new creations
Brought in to right relationship with God
Because of the blood of Jesus Christ.
I'm incredibly grateful for the work that missionaries do and what they accomplish on any given day. But things have certainly changed in recent decades. Of course, the increased levels of hostility and persecution of the church across the world is also disconcerting, albeit nothing new.
It got me thinking of a point that was made a few days ago, regarding missionaries of long ago. It also happens to be what I think is an incredible "strategy" if you will, for the advancement of the Gospel.
For many years ago, missionaries weren't sent solely with the funding of church and denominational support. They were business people who had a heart to reach the lost across the globe. Thus, they took their business into foreign lands. And by their resourcefulness and the hand of God, of course, they were able to be released of the burden of relying on the church for financial support.
Furthermore, through the establishment of business relationships, they were able to build a bridge to the heart of those they came in contact with and reach out to those yet to be reached and present them with the life-changing message of Jesus Christ.
Of course, this is nothing new.
The Apostle Paul was a man of trade, engaged in the marketplace so that he too could present the Gospel. Yes, some churches helped him, as he believed should be done. But for his ministry, it was something he didn't not want to take advantage of, to the point of relying solely on church support, so that the Gospel went forward unhindered by financial constraint.
It's not a knock against today's missionaries. Times have changed, both in business and in living cost, not to mention society's general receptiveness to the Gospel. But clearly, there is power in the strategy of presenting the Gospel through the avenue of business.
It's not that more missionaries should be business people; but perhaps more business people should be involved in missions.
On this #missionsFriday, pray that by some means, there would be an increase of business people in the missions field. Pray for breakthroughs and opportunities, particularly, for nations that are close and resistant to the Gospel being spread in their society. May God change the hearts of kings and rulers as a watercourse. Pray that hearts and minds would be softened and receptive as relationships are made and bridges built, to reach the lost with the love of Jesus Christ. May God bless the efforts and resources of missionaries, as well as the churches and people of God who support them, whether in part or in full.
To reach the lost
At any cost.
A beneficial impact,
Both for today and eternity.
For the glory of God
And the cause of Jesus Christ.
"All of our problems are theological"
This line closed out a train of thought that was shared during our Wednesday night devotional from the book of Habakkuk and as I reflected and thought about it yesterday, it really is true. All the problems and ills that we face and encounter may take on different appearances and affect various parts of our lives, but at the core of it all, we are spiritual beings. Thus what happens to us and how we respond happen in the spiritual realm.
We are witnessing firsthand, what happens when we neglect and dismiss spiritual truth.
We dismiss God in our daily lives, so all things become permissible.
Our identity is not found in Christ, so do or be or say anything one feels on any given day.
Without God and the understanding of eternity, than life has no consequences.
We are watching a free-for-all in all realms of life because we fail to tend to the most important aspect of our being. Yet when tragedy strikes, we fail to be able to understand, let alone explain it. We struggle with the evils of the world and what if anything or anyone is good and why, yet leave out the pivot point on which it all hinges.
As a result, the conversation is becoming increasingly difficult to have, yet more apparent in the need for it to happen. We need a move of God to change hearts and minds; at the very least to be open to receive. The barriers stand strong, but if we focus on the heart of the real solution to the essential problem, then everything other "problem" is put into proper perspective and understanding, which gives rise to hope. A living and active hope, whereby God can intervene.
Pray this #missionsFriday, that God would indeed change hearts and minds... to be open to hear and receive His truth. May we understand that for all the world's problems, our attempts to fix and solve them are futile in light of eternity and a relationship with God. Pray a renewed boldness to communicate Christ and to share His love and life to a world in desperate need of His grace. Pray for a move of repentance. As fast as we have witnessed a change in society, may we see a fast and quick return to the things of God.
For what good is it if we gain the world, yet lose our soul.
Our problems are theologically.
Yet if we place God where He belongs,
In our lives and in our world,
He can make things right
As we are brought into right standing with Him.
By His grace and for His glory.
All of life is striving. We all have a pursuit. We are all in pursuit. The list of pursuits is long and varied, with people, things and agendas.
People are on a mission...
to find true love.
to repair an impossible relationship
to find or gain the "next best..."
to destroy political opponents
to beat our rivals
to achieve the unattainable
To have the most and be the best... a stand out, from a distant crowd.
Don't get me wrong... goals, ambition, drive; admirable qualities. To a degree.
Yet, Christ did not call us to lead, but to follow.
God is true love.
Many relationships are impossible, but one with God is not.
Whatever the "next best" is, it remains secondary to Christ.
Love our enemies.
Bless those who persecute and do all manner of evil against us.
Whatever alludes us, a Christ-less eternity does not need to top the list.
Yet, even in ministry we can get distracted. Into the social hot topics, debates and discussions of the day. Of personal goals and desires. Frustrations of those who don't get along with us or are blatantly against us. Whatever our days and the struggles that accompany them, it's all God's. Whatever we do, we do as unto the Lord; for the Lord.
Pray, this #missionsFriday, that missionaries would continue in their focus and efforts for the kingdom of God. May life and it's woes neither distract nor dissuade their ability to persevere for the Gospel. Pray God would strength and rejuvenate the worn-out and weary. May God propel them to higher heights and greater depths, not because of their merit, but because of His sovereignty; not because of man's greatness, but because of God's goodness.
It's not a matter of striving,
But one of surrendering.
For the glory of God
And the advancement of the Gospel of Christ.
I heard this story the other day and it's absolutely incredible. It's a story that you must read and I'll leave out the details for you to check out in a few moments.
But the end result, is a man, who was formerly an assassin for Sadaam Hussein, is now a Christian, as is his wife! And the event that transpired which brought about this conversion is a scene from an action movie.
As this story rattled around in my mind for the past day or two, I was reminded of how easily we can miss, forget or neglect God's working on the hearts and minds of those we are attempting to reach with the Gospel. He chooses to use us, yet there are times that He will simply reveal Himself directly, as He did for this couple.
For all the preparation that we can put forth and invest in training and resources to reach the lost, whether they be local or abroad and regardless whether the laborers for God's kingdom are few and abundant, this story is a reminder that it is indeed God who intervenes in the affairs of men; who directs their hearts as a watercourse.
That's not to say ministry is worthy of our full and best effort; indeed it is. Writing this is a painful reminder of how badly and frequently I miss the mark. But if God doesn't intervene, to help prepare hearts and open minds...
Perhaps ministry is most suited to the adage:
"Pray like it depends on God, work as though it depends on you."
So, let's pray this #missionsFriday. Pray that God would help us to better reach out to those around us. Pray that God would strength missionaries in their attempts to reach the unreached people groups in the areas they've been called to serve. Pray God would help us to better reflect the love, grace and character of Christ, regardless of what transpires in our personal, daily lives. Indeed, pray that God would continue to move on the hearts and minds of those still at risk of perishing without Christ. May the eye scales be removed and minds illuminated to the truth of Jesus Christ.
That we would witness the miraculous,
Daily in neighborhoods, near and far.
A day of great repentance and redemption
And more as we await Christ' return.
For the glory of God and His kingdom.
*in case link doesn't work for some reason...
Former Assassin Comes To Christ
I heard a powerful testimony yesterday, by a former Mrs. America pageant winner, who speaks across the country giving her story. As she shared the details of some of her life, she talked about how easy we compare our lives. And we all do it. But what a dangerous process for us to engage in!
The world takes part in the process.
The church takes part in the process.
Family members, friends and strangers all take part with each other.
What a disservice that we do to ourselves, to our neighbors and to our Creator, God.
We are His Masterpiece, yet none of us are complete.
As the talented, musician Mandisa sings, “I'm just unfinished.” And what could be closer to the truth? God is doing a work on me. He is doing a work in you. And for so many others, He has not yet begun. Yet even in Christianity, we look at those He has yet to work on, as if they should be “further along”.
In reality, God is at work in all of us.
He is working in the lives of those who are active in their relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.
He is working in the lives of those who have yet to come to God through Jesus Christ.
But He can only work on what steps into His studio; into His presence. The process of Him working on and in our hearts and our minds depends on our willingness to allow Him to continue carrying out His plans and purposes in our lives. It's hard for us not some step outside ourselves and offer our critique, of what He is doing in our own self or in the life next to us.
Or stated another way...
It's hard to both trust the Master and critique the Master while simultaneously recommending the Master. Does it not create confusion and complicate the recommendation?
Even in ministry, we don't understand the process and often get frustrated by the time and intensity involved. Thus, if it is challenging and difficult for us as Christians, how much more as express the need to others also in need of a life transformed, for they too are unfinished. The potential for our frustration to have a detrimental effect to those we hope will witness Christ in our lives, is real if we focus on the comparison, rather than the power of the process.
On this #missionsFriday, will you join me again in prayer? Pray for missionaries are being challenged; where the time and intensity are starting to wear on them. May they not lose strength of heart as they endure. Pray they would continue to trust the Master in the process. May their emotions and their perspective not stand in the way of their witness and ministry to bring others to Christ. Pray against a spirit of confusion; but call for a fresh clarity and reassurance that God is accomplishing His miraculous and sovereign plan through their faithfully and obedience to what He has called them to fulfill. May discouragement flee and steadfastness remain. Pray for lives transformed, as each day we are ever so closer to reflect the glory of Christ, as people created and reborn in the image of God.
For we are earth vessels,
Nothing but jars of clay
Entrusted with the treasure of Heaven
To be used by God
For His glory and the cause of Jesus Christ.
I watched a video this past week of an interview that aired on C-Span and they were discussing the recent events that transpired in Virginia last weekend. I'm still amazed listening to the interview, in fact started it late at night, so I can't wait to watch it again when I have more time.
But part way through, as people were calling in to the show to discuss the topic at hand, she talked about what changed in her life.
She replied to a caller that she had a similar background as they and totally understand their point of you, for in fact, she was the same way...
Until she had a "born-again experience". (her words)
She proceeded for next few seconds, to tell of how Jesus Christ had not only saved her from her sins, but had transformed her life. There was a literal change, that permeated every fiber of her being.
It had nothing to do with changing her understanding of the world or politics or social issues simply for the sake of "changing sides", but in actually, because of the Gospel, that is what happened.
The Truth set her free.
Because her understanding changed of humanity and the problem of sin had come under the impact of salvation, she began to look at what is wrong with society in terms of all the issues people seem to want corrected (politics, economics, education and other social hot topics) through a Biblical perspective.
Please don't read what I'm not saying... that one political side is perfect and the other not; they both of their good thinking and people and the both have their extremes and the both of perspectives that are "wrong" in light of Scripture. So I'm not defending or condemning any one side, person or topic.
But we must never forget that sin entered the world and the relationship between God and man suffered damage because Adam and Eve chose to believe a lie told by the enemy of our souls. The relationship cannot be restored until the Truth is revealed and acknowledged.
Similarly, a nation cannot be healed and restored unless Truth cuts through the lies that each of us are prone to believe on some level on some topic anywhere. Clearly, we live it a day where it can not be ones take on truth, but it must be the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that brings clarity and revelation to the battles that we face, that are at their basis, spiritual in nature.
Pray this #missionsFriday, that the Truth of the Gospel would be spoken of to the ends of the Earth. May the eyescales be removed as the lies are exposed; the very lies of that our spiritual enemy uses to seek, kill and destroy humanity. All life is precious and created for the glory of God. Pray for a super-natural move of His Spirit, for healing in the hearts and minds of the broken and hurting. Pray for a spirit of repentance and turning from our wicked ways; that we would turn to feet of Christ, who hung on a cross that we may be redeemed.
For what good is it that we accomplish and achieve all we desire on this Earth,
Yet lose our soul in Hell.
May we not fight with each other over ideologies,
But fight for the saving of souls for eternity.
By the grace of God
And with the Truth of His Word.
For the cause of Jesus Christ.
I heard a pretty incredible statistic yesterday, regarding the persecution of the church... something like 100,000+ Christians were martyred last year. So a quick search brings up some pretty astonishing results.
The organization, Open Doors says that persecution against the global church has risen for the third year in a row. How about some quick specifics...
* approximately 215 million Christians will experience high, very high or extreme persecution
* North Korea remains the most dangerous place for Christians, for the 14th consecutive year
* Pakistan is now the "most violent", exceeding levels of Northern Nigeria
* Nigeria has seen more than a 62% increase in the killings of Christians
* On Open Doors' Top 50 Worst Countries for persecution list, Mali moved up from #44 to #32!
* 39 million of India's 64 million Christians experience direct persecution
If that doesn't move you, or at least open your eyes to just how close and real this battle is becoming, consider this: 75% of the world's population live in areas with severe religious restriction.
Indeed, eternity is at stake. Heaven's fallen angel is literally hell-bent on keeping as many people as possible from experiencing the incredible environment he once inhabited.
Whatever he can do to distract, detour and derail Christians, he will do.
All the more, if he can destroy the messenger, then he limits the effectiveness of the message.
Granted, he's already defeated, but he knows humanity remains hanging in the balance.
Well, on this #missionsFriday, there's certainly much to pray about. Pray for strength and perseverance among the millions of those persecuted. May their resolve to the faith and the Gospel stand firm in the face of all kinds of adversity and opposition. Pray for pastors and missionaries across the globe and especially this Top 50 list. Pray that God would turn the hearts of kings and leaders, as a water-course, back towards Him. Pray for the missionaries in the countries where the stats are extreme, such as Pakistan and Nigeria. May God will accomplish the miraculous in their ministries. Though we are essentially promised trials and tribulations, for indeed the world hated Christ Himself, pray God's protective angels over these, as we read of so many occasions in Scripture... the protection of Daniel, the release of Peter and Paul from prison.
The battle is the Lord's
May our prayers be as the lifting of Moses' arms
In the spiritual realm.
For the cause of Jesus Christ.
It's pretty incredible, when you consider the response when Jesus began calling His disciples to drop everything and "follow" Him. Kinda makes me wonder what His handle would have been, had He been the first to use Twitter. @JesusChrist? @therealJC? @onlySonofGod @officialJesus?
But seriously... did those 12 guys have a clue? You can't help but read the Gospels and Christ' response at some of their questions, often repeated and wonder. Many a time I've used the legal term with my kids when they get in the mood of asking the same questions multiple times in a row. I simply look at them and say "Asked and answered!"
Jesus didn't mince words. The man was pretty direct, especially the one line questions as He applied the parables to our lives. I could see Jesus looking at the clueless disciples thinking, "asked and answered."
But He called them to be witnesses. And as I heard this discussed earlier this week, witnesses of Christ became the first of the martyred; for there were serious repercussions of bearing false witness. They took on the consequences of those whom they testified against if they were found out. Thus, if you were to bear any witness it all, you'd better speak with a clear confidence that what you saw was true.
Sadly, the days are upon us where people would rather believe the lie rather than hear the truth. Where does that leave us? False witness goes unnoticed and unpunished? Declarers of truth are dispersed, demoted and doubted. Or perhaps feared of being right and thus must be dealt with rather than the hearer being led repentance.
What good is a witness of they don't speak truth?
What good is a witness that lives in fear of being silenced?
Communication dies before your very eyes.
For the message is no good without a messenger.
Let's pray this #missionsFriday, that missionaries would continue be declarers of truth. May the walk with discernment, understanding that people have a desire for the truth, but often don't know how to handle and receive it. Pray they would not walk in the fear of man, but press on in the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit. Pray for the preparation of the hearts and minds of those who would hear... may there be a moment of revelation that would bring about change, as people surrender their lives to Christ.
May the message proceed
Because of the tenacity of the messenger.
By the power of God.
For the glory of God
And the cause of Jesus Christ.
"Do you want to know what God delights in?
The same thing every Father does.
Providing and protecting His children." - John McArthur
I happened to catch most of his sermon last night on the way home as he continued a sermon series on anxiety and worry. Prior to this statement though, he was talking about the relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ; whereas man-derived religion is problematic because any conception and concoction of a deity other than God is flawed, as man is flawed. Thus, aside from the common grace of God that falls on both the just and the unjust, McArthur makes the point that the unsaved bears the full weight of survival.
Without the saving grace of the knowledge of Jesus Christ all that remains is the best effort of humanity and the hopes of a catching a false god having a good day.
Keeping that mind, the obstacles that stand in the way as missionaries move forward in declaring the truth of the Gospel are simply astounding. The cultural and social battles that lay in wait to confront today's believers are... well, among other things, seemingly increasing daily. Like the number of believers that were added to the church in the early days of Acts... only in opposition to the Gospel rather than changed by it.
We often, and mistakenly so, place pedals under those in ministry... as if they are taking on a mission that the "everyday" Christian can't complete. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Missionaries are taking on the same challenges, albeit in a different land and a few other items at the forefront... such as language. Thankfully though, we are not existing simply for survival. Our Heavenly Father stands on our behalf; to provide and protect His children and stands ready to receive others into adoption, as they hear and accept the message of the Gospel of Christ.
Pray, this #missionsFriday, for missionaries who themselves are struggling in their personal lives with their relationship with Father God. May they be strengthened and encouraged in the protection and provision that He delights. For the cultural and social challenges that stand before the Gospel may the truth of His Word cut to the quick, as the Holy Spirit brings revelation to hearts and minds. May many come to the understanding that the Father always desires relationship with His children, even when the children want nothing to do with the Father. May the saving grace of the knowledge of Christ transcend the lives of the unsaved; breaking through every notion that has resulted from the fallen state of humanity and bringing people to the redemptive state made available through the Cross.
Loved by God.
An incredible Father
To a world full of messed-up kids.
Saved by grace independent of a broken humanity.
For the advancement of the Gospel of Christ.
Just a man, attempting to fulfill God's plan. Husband, Dad, Dreamer. Blogger.