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.
All across the globe, the church is witness some pretty incredible levels of persecution of late. The stories, some of which I heard this past week are simply astonishing. Of course, in western civilization and specifically in America, the religious element of society is coming under increasing cultural and political pressure to give way to the thinking and behavioral leanings of those without Christ. It's probably nothing new, except thanks to social media, the statements seem to dominate the sentiment that non-Christians are telling Christian to be or act more Christian.
It's an interesting dilemma, as you know people want to experience genuine love and plain truth, but there is such an attitude of hostility against the things of God and the Judeo-Christian values that it is hard to know how to relate and share the gospel.
Elsewhere, though, like the Middle East, there is a great movement being made towards God, particularly as people witness how Christians are responding to persecution. Even to the point of death, they are rejoicing in what God is accomplishing and displaying a peace beyond explanation. Such acts are resonating in people's spirits and the stories that I heard this past week on the matter are simply mind-blowing.
There are utterly interesting days in which we live. There is a greater drawing towards God by some. And an equally or greater resistance against God by others. Clearly, we are stepping ever closer to a spiritual showdown; a battle of good versus evil for all eternity.
And all the more reason to pray over the advancement of Gospel.
On this #missionsFriday, pray for those under intense levels of persecution, even to the point of death. May God work the miraculous in their lives and ministries as they testify and evangelize the Gospel of Christ and the love of God. Pray for strength and endurance as they run the race of faith set before them. May they not fail or falter; but remain in you, no matter what resistance or persecution they face. Pray for the church, where political and social agendas are confronting the church in attempt to discredit and destroy their influence and existence in the public square. Pray for a move of God on our behalf; that the love of God in our lives would compel people's hearts to set aside agendas and come to understand the eternal plan and purpose God has for all of humanity.
Running with endurance
The race set before.
Persevering in light of persecution.
For the advancement of the cause of Christ
For the glory of God.
It usually helps when telling a story, that the plot twist is a key element. Wouldn't you agree? Otherwise you've built up the intro and you have the moral of it all, but what happened to the transition?
Well, I missed that part as it was shared yesterday via radio. That said, though... I remember the closing statement of the story as it was told.
"I didn't have the perspective to see that far ahead."
As the pastor preached, he relay Paul's perspective on his ministry... he did everything with eternity in mind. He was counting the cost. He was forsaking it all. He was keeping his eye on the price.
His perspective was eternally-focused.
Yet, for all of life, both personally, profession or ministerial, it's hard to keep a long-term perspective. And in fact, my wife and I just chatted as I was sitting to type this, that "what if we had done something different" regarding last nights decision compared to a related decision from two years ago.
To this I had one reply... can't focus on that now. I don't want to think about how much more gray hair I would be sporting had I spent more time thinking and rethinking any number of decisions I've made in the past 12-13 years; even longer, come to think of it.
In fact, I think about such matters more than I need to and I really try not to do so even that much! That said, the same is true in ministry. And perhaps, to a greater extent missions. It goes without saying that both eternity-minded and focused. But decisions, strategies, conversations, time management, ministry-life balance... all of these elements have their own levels of desires and regrets and second guesses.
If the everyday issues of life can through us off our game even momentarily in the life of the everyday Christian, then once again, it begs the question; how much more for the those whose vocation is full-time ministry?
Thanks again for joining me. On this #missionsFriday, pray that missionaries would indeed keep the long-term perspective of eternity in mind. Even the cost of life, as Paul laid out so eloquently, that to be absent here is to be present with God... may the fears of persecution, retribution and opposition towards the Gospel not lay a foothold, much less a stronghold in their hearts and minds. Pray for a spirit of confidence as they move forward in the calling of God and the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon their lives; may a spirit of regret and doubt be far-removed from their mind's eye and memory. Pray a fresh move of God in the efforts; a fresh wind in their words and a countenance of joy over their lives.
That whatever they do
May it be done as unto the Lord.
In word and deed,
For the honor and glory of God
For the advancement of the Gospel
And the cause of Jesus Christ.
Let it be so.
As I considered the challenges and battles facing missionaries yesterday, the words stood out, as Colton Dixon's song All That Matters, played on the radio.
He talks about how life changes, things come and go and fade away.
Yet, all that matters is that God is for us, for always. His love will never change. All that matters is that we matter to Him.
Oddly enough, or not, it tied in perfectly with the sermon on Job, that was broadcast yesterday morning as well. God wasn't setting Job up for failure, when He asked Satan if he had considered "my servant Job". God knew Job. He knew His faith. He knew His unwavering. Indeed God chose Job because He knew Job would bring glory to God in all things; and that his response would be as Colton sings. No matter what happens, I matter to God
Thus, regardless of where one finds themselves and what they are encountering, God is not far off.
He is not unreachable or unobtainable.
He is not out of ear shot; not out of range.
We are not in a roaming area, where it will cost extra to reach Him.
God is intimately aware and intimately close.
What greater message is there to share, with those who need to hear and receive the love of God; for those in ministry who need to be reminded of the love of God.
All that matters is that I matter to God.
You should say that out loud, as I just did.
All that matters is that I matter to God.
Pray this #missionsFriday, that the truth of the love of God would go forth. Pray for missionaries, struggling to minister, because they are having difficulty personally, in their faith and life, even though they know and sense that they too matter to God. Pray for strength and encouragement even this hour. May God do a fresh work in their hearts and minds; that the Holy Spirit would supernaturally revive and rejuvenate the depths of their soul. May they know and trust that wherever they are and whatever they face, that God has chosen them to bring about glory... that our struggles and tears are not in vain, nor are they wasted.
All that matters, matters to God.
Creator and sustainer of life.
Who holds the world in His hands,
Yet His beloved in His heart.
For we are His workmanship
That all may know His glory.
This is going to drive me nuts now, all morning trying to remember who relayed this story yesterday on the radio, but oh well.
The Christian faith has been persecuted since before the days the Apostle Paul's Damascan Road conversion; by the man himself. While the church is witnessing phenomenal growth in recent years, particularly outside the Western Hemisphere (and specifically the States) they are also witnessing incredible persecution. Talk has been on the rise that the USA is closer than ever to such a reality, as increasing, God is becoming "taboo" in the public and political arena. The opinions and voices wanting nothing to do with Biblical influence seem to be getting ever louder.
Yet, the story was shared yesterday while I was channel surfing the radio, of a home pastor and his wife, ministering in Bangkok. The pastor wasn't home at the time, so the police took his wife in for questioning and continued, so far as beat and torture her. The one relaying the story mentions, that as the home pastor shared this experience, he didn't finish the story of what happened with his wife; leaving it open as if she seemingly entered eternity, either from the sustained injuries or the alternative.
But what had happened... she stood in the place of her husband. They had come looking for him and the wife had told the authorities that she, herself, as was the pastor.
Around the world, these are the challenges and futures facing many missionaries, whose cultures, societies and governments are against Christianity, the things of God and the power of the Gospel to change the hearts and minds of a nation.
And yet, daily, we witness just how great, every nation is need of the power of the Cross of Jesus Christ.
So... will you join me once again, this #missionsFriday? Pray for missionaries around the world, that God would strengthen and protect them as they proclaim the Gospel. For those who are in places of extreme hostility, may God continue to grant them courage and boldness as they stand firm in their faith and the knowledge of Christ. May many come to Christ through their efforts and perseverance. May the Holy Spirit empower them; that they would not be overcome with a spirit of fear or discouragement, but that they would witness the miraculous transformation of lives as the truth of Christ is revealed to those around them. Pray God would move on the hearts of kings and governing authorities; that the walls would come down and many would enter into the presence of God.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood
But powers and principalities of this dark age.
For the glory of God
And the advancement of the Gospel of Christ.
Peace be with you.
I was slightly encouraged, maybe a little more than that, by a portion of a sermon I caught yesterday as I was channel surfing through the radio. The pastor was talking about the faith of Moses, as God directed him to go.
I want you to go.
Don't worry about. Just start walking.
Any particular direction?
I'll let you know, as you go.
No seriously... what's the destination?
No, seriously... just go.
Can't we map this out first?
I have the map. I'll tell you what's up, as you go.
This is our conversation with God. How it wasn't Moses' conversation, is a mystery.
And yet, so often, it's how God continues to work in our lives. We look at decisions based on how things will look in five years. We make them based on what's gone wrong in life over the past five years. We make decisions based on the factors we know weighed against the factors we don't know. Meanwhile, I see God simply breathing. Waiting. For us to simply start moving, so that He can direct our feet and illuminate our path.
Thus, like Moses, I admire missionaries and their hearth. For surely, they have or are tempted to have the conversation that we would have had if we were in Moses' sandals. But they continue to go and step out and move, even as God directs, one step at a time.
So, pray, this #missionsFriday, that God would strengthen the faith of missionaries. May the continue to move in obedience, under the prompting of the Holy Spirit and the direction of God. Pray for wisdom in the decisions that they do face and need to make and may they not get caught up in the knowing versus unknown debate, whereby the miss the opportunity God has for their lives and ministries. May they continue to walk in faith as God leads and moves. Pray for discernment as they seek the face and will of God; to hear His voice and understand His heart in a greater dimension than every before.
That we would hear and respond,
Rather than hesitate and debate.
Moving in faith as God moves upon our hearts.
For the glory of God
And the cause of Jesus Christ.
The radio DJ asked a profound question while on the air yesterday afternoon.
"What if the interruption is the assignment?"
And after thinking about it, and how I spend my two plus hours sitting on the freeway while it was shut down due to an accident, I realized a confession was in order. I hadn't taken advantage of what God was wanting to accomplish, or what He might want to accomplish in that time. I had gone through the interchange, from one expressway to another and my mind was in 100 different directions... or so it seemed.
I could feel the stress. I could tell I was bothered. I was struggling to try and figure out these matters were going to be taken care of and how I would fair in the end. 10 minutes later, traffic was at a stand-still. And rather than use the time to allow God to change my heart and perspective; and releasing the cares and burdens in order that He might remind me He holds it all in His hands, I continued to think through things... tried to distract myself so I wouldn't be so bothered.
Something within me wasn't allowing my spirit to stop like traffic had and say, "Okay God... while we have this block of time, let's sort as much of this out as we can."
How often does similar situations arise in ministry? The assignment of the Gospel is the focus right? Yet in these pockets and blocks of crisis moments; are we stepping up to the plate and allowing God to accomplish what He will in the interruption and asking what He would desire to have us accomplish as well? Or are we simply bothered and frustrated that the interruption exists is adding to the stress and problem(s) of the day?
On this #missionsFriday, let us pray... that in all things, whether the day "goes our way" or seemingly falls apart, may we give thanks in all things and all circumstances. Pray a renewed spirit within missionaries, that would view even the interruptions as opportunities for God to perform some incredible moments of ministry. May they not be detoured and derailed when life comes to a halt; when plans change and the route changes course. May the problems and cares of the world not take such a prominent place in our hearts and minds, that as valid as they may be; may we not miss what God would desire to accomplish in the interruptions.
Giving thanks in spite of our circustances
Despite our feelings.
Trusting in the sovereignty of God
Seeking His face
Allowing Him to move in and through us
As He sees fit.
For the glory of God
For the cause of Jesus Christ.
The world is ever changing. So much so, that's it's getting harder and harder to miss the clues and hints that the return of Christ is very much at hand. Yes, the Christian faith has said this for centuries and every generation looks at what is happening in their respective culture and society and thinks their days are numbered.
To put this in perspective, however, I caught part of a discussion on the radio where the guest of the program put eternity in perspective. Depending on the source, there's close to 2, perhaps as many as 3 deaths every second. Or 150,000-200,000 deaths per day. Yet God remains, unwilling that any should perish.
What's difficult about such numbers, is the reality of the fall of man. Life events happen as do accidents, but death is the result of the brokenness of the human condition in light of Almighty God. To further complicate the discussion, is a society that continues to push back against truth and morality and the authority of God's Word. It permeates generations and crosses social, economic and racial divides.
If that weren't enough, the realities of one's state on earth often stands in the way of God doing a work on a spiritual level. Health, economic, relational, mental needs and more stand in the way of people opening the door of their heart to Jesus Christ.
I think Jesus understood this phenomenon... for how many times was His physical healing accompanied with Go and sin no more. He met the reality of their need. He spoke to their heart.
Yet for all the challenges and difficulties of ministry and the work of missionaries, so many other factors have the potential to stand as barriers. It's not Christ can't push through it all to get to us, but rather will people push those issues aside to allow Christ to come in. And for those in ministry, will they do the same and allow God to work through them, despite the exhaustion and frustration of their reality?
So... another #missionsFriday on the books! Let's pray that God would indeed, break through the barriers, frustrations and distractions, for both the missionary and those they are reaching out to impact with the Gospel. May strongholds be broken, as minds are illuminated to the truth and the condition of the heart is exposed to the love of Christ. Pray for wisdom and boldness to declare the goodness of God in times of society's dramatic decline. May God's plans and purposes be fulfilled, despite man's best efforts to remove and keep Him from playing an active role in our lives.
For God so loved the world.
He has passionately pursued humanity since the beginning of time.
While culture has a whole may want nothing to do with God,
He is all about His Creation.
Relentless for the kingdom of Heaven.
For the cause of Christ.
I got to thinking yesterday (dangerous, I know, right?) that we've devoted Thursdays to praying for deacons and church operations... more of a "behind-the-scenes" emphasis as we look to pray and encourage pastors. Then we pray for missionaries, but not the people behind the scenes of their ministries.
It is no longer selling everything you own and getting on a plane now, neither.
There is major prep work that goes into the process.
It these difficult socio-political times, they have to find a "point-of-entry"... like my friends whose focus of missionary work is caring for children. There's raising a budget and funds for the work. There's learning, of language and culture. There's curriculum and other resources to prepare, as some are going to places where the Bible has yet to be presented in the native language. And the list goes on and on.
Yet, if their aren't people to aid in the process; if the funds aren't available to produce the materials and support the sending and sustaining of missionaries and their families; if churches aren't coming along side and partnering with them in prayer and support...
I'm not saying God can't still accomplish the miraculous through anyone who simply packs and goes, for surely He can. Have we over-complicated the process? Perhaps. Has the support throughout the process though, hopefully helped overcome the fear and stigma that prevent people from stepping on to the mission field in the first place? Probably.
Either way, 400-500 missionaries leave the mission field annually, for the same reasons pastors are leaving the pulpit 3x as fast every month. Burnout. The work is great and the workers few.
Pray, this #missionsFriday, the Lord of the Harvest would send laborers. Pray God would raise up those who would help in the process of sending missionaries, in training and support and resources. Pray God would raise up more who would give to the cause, through their prayers and finances. As churches are struggling to meet and extend their financial support to the work of missions, may God do a work in those congregations to step out in faith and commit to the advancement of the Gospel globally. And pray that even this hour, that God would encourage missionaries who are frustrated and stressed by the work and the challenges they face. Pray for those going through the process, preparing to step on to the field for the first time, wondering what in the world they are doing. May God be their strength and guidance as they work towards the calling He has placed up their hearts and lives. Pray an anointing and a grace of their lives and homes.
Until the whole world hears,
The Good News
Of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
For the glory of God our Father.
Just a man, attempting to fulfill God's plan. Husband, Dad, Dreamer. Blogger.