Friday, March 27, 2009

WHO ARE WE AIMING TO PLEASE?

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. “(1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV)


It’s not about me and my agenda. Real life is solely based upon how God has designed me, what He has planned for me, and am I willing to submit to His plan, His time table, and His schedule of events.

Romans 12:1-2 instructs us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices unto God, being transformed from the world’s way of thinking. It becomes a mind-set. Worrying about things out of our control begins a downward spiral. Trying to keep up with those around us puts our focus on resources rather than the Source.

Ambition is good. Goals are wonderful. Dreams are necessary for one to aspire to great accomplishments. The question for believers is who are we aiming to please: ourselves, others, or our Creator God? Whose dreams are we living out?

Matthew 6:33 instructs us to seek first the kingdom of God…first things first. As we allow God to have His way in our lives, we begin to find peace in all circumstances. We become more add more content with life (Philippians 4:11) as we rest in His will. Trusting God’s plan for our life allows us to live beyond present circumstances and trust He has it all worked out. (Jeremiah 29:11). We must first admit that God is God and realize that He alone rewards those who seek to please Him (Hebrews 11:6), but in His timing!

In a time when everyone is seeking answers, we know the One who has everything already planned. As challenging as it may seem, what a witness it would be if we can commit ourselves to trust Him and allow Him move in His timing, not just so others can see Him at work, but for our own peace of mind as well. Let’s commit this verse to action, not just memory:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3:23-24 NIV)

Friday, March 20, 2009

A CO-WORKER WITH THE SPIRIT

“Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the believers. You are faithful even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. Please help them by sending them on their way in a manner that honors God. They started on their journey to serve Jesus Christ. They didn't receive any help from those who aren't believers. So we should welcome people like them. We should work together with them for the truth.”(3 John 1:5-8 NIrV)


The last surviving Apostle is writing to his dear children, those under his authority to support missionaries travelling about from church to church defining the instructions of Christ as they come against false teachings. Clearly John does not refer to himself alone by the use of the first person plural pronoun here, since the issue is support for the traveling missionaries. He instructs that all true Christians ought to support the endeavors of these traveling missionaries in their efforts to counteract the heretical teaching of the opponents. What does this say to believers today: I believe every believer is called to missions!

We all need to sacrifice for the spreading of the Gospel. Some are called to sacrifice their life and vocation to go…some are called to sacrifice their finances and give…still others are called to sacrifice their time and petition God on behalf of the servants in the mission field.

John refers to himself, Gaius, and all genuine Christians, all of whom should “become coworkers in cooperation with the truth” (NET Bible) by supporting the efforts of the traveling missionaries. More explicitly (1 John 4:6) identifies the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of truth”, a characterization repeated in (1 John 5:6). Thus it seems likely that the “truth” at work through the missionaries here is ultimately the Holy Spirit, who works through their efforts. Accordingly the Christian who supports them becomes a co-worker with the Spirit of God himself.

Do we all not desire to be an effective partner with God’s Spirit which is at work within each of us? What greater reward than to know we have been a part of winning a soul for Christ through the actions of a missionary, whether he is thousands of miles away or in our own neighborhood? The bottom line is that we are partnering with the Holy Spirit through the missionary to increase the Kingdom and equip the saints. That’s a winning team!

So how deep is our commitment to join in? How will we choose to go…literally, financially, through intercessory prayer? While many are called …the few commit do go.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Commitment to Celebrate

“Remember your word to your servant,
for you have given me hope. This is what comforts me in my trouble,
for your promise revives me. Arrogant people do nothing but scoff at me.
Yet I do not turn aside from your law.” (Psalm 119:49-51)


My hope comes from God alone. His promise to sustain is all I can cling to at times. It’s not an empty promise or a vain hope, but a secure commitment from the God who never goes back on His word. It’s a promise from a God who never fails. It’s a guarantee from a God who cannot lie! In whom else can I put my faith in this present world? Oh, I realize my wife sticks right beside me and there are friends and family members who think what we are doing is deserving of praise and even a little support. But when I lie awake in the middle of the night or pour my heart out to my DADDY as I ride along with Him in the car, I realize it’s God and God alone who can come through every time and on time! It seems ridiculous to some, but I know God has a plan for us (Jeremiah 29:11) and He will come through, just as He did for Moses, Joshua, (Joshua 1:5-9) and so many more!

“Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus and released them. So they left the council rejoicing because they had been considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. And every day both in the temple courts and from house to house, they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus was the Christ.” (Acts 5:40-41 NET)


Like the disciples who were tried, beaten, and ridiculed publically in times past, I count it an honor to be made fun of for my feeble attempts to serve others and bring them a bit closer to the Savior. Folks look at us and wonder why. They see the work we do, compare it to the pay, and comment (mostly behind our backs) “How foolish”. Some have been so bold to suggest we are freeloading off of others. Wow! The best I can do is to pray for them…and us as well. Most people just don’t know the struggles and sacrifice it takes to do your best to live to please God and attempt to honor the calling He has placed upon us. It is very seldom easy, but is always rewarding.

When a child smiles at completing a homework assignment; draws us a picture depicting their thanks; or is encouraged by winning a game; we are rewarded. When a single mom gives a tearful testimony as to the spiritual and physical growth of their children, we are rewarded. When God whispers “well done” after a challenging few days of activity, we are rewarded. When an individual or family expresses their encouragement, offers to pray for us, or even sends a financial gift, we feel the Lord’s hand of support and we are rewarded. Our arms are lifted up (Exodus 17:12) and our strength is renewed (Isaiah 40:31).

As the freed Irish slave Patrick once said some 1600 years ago, “If I have any worth, it is to live my life for God.” That’s the legacy I seek to leave behind. Let’s celebrate that kind of commitment!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Feeling a Bit Overwhelmed?

Here is what Israel should say:

Suppose the Lord had not been on our side. Suppose the Lord had not been on our side when our enemies attacked us. Suppose He had not been on our side when their anger blazed out against us.

Then they would have swallowed us alive. They would have been like a flood that drowned us. They would have swept over us like a rushing river. They would have washed us away like a swollen stream.

Give praise to the Lord. He has not let our enemies chew us up. We have escaped like a bird from a hunter's trap.
The trap has been broken, and we have escaped
.
Our help comes from the Lord.
He is the Maker of heaven and earth.
(Psalm 124 NIrV)


Feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the pressures we face today: finances, health, marriage issues, children’s education, or what the future will bring? David, in his song of ascent unto the Lord offered the people of Israel this response: “Suppose the Lord had not been on our side?” We are where we are today…surviving up to this point, only because of His grace and mercy!

Ravenous economic beasts, raging waters of illness and disease, hidden snares concerning family issues, all await us and perhaps have caught up with us throughout the years. But what if God had not been there? As the old saying goes: When God is all we have, we realize He is all we need!

God alone is the Source of all we need. Whether it’s our physical strength, psychological stamina, financial supply, or simply a healthy dose of patience…He is our only Source! Our resources (a source of aid or support that may be drawn upon when needed) come from Him. David reminds the people of Israel that God is the Creator, Maker of heaven and earth. Do we need any more reminders that He can more than meet our needs?

The same God who did all that for Israel is ready, willing and able to do all the same for you and me. As we struggle, let’s remember all that He has done. Had He not been with us, we would not be standing today. We would have been swallowed up by the enemy! If God is for us, who can possibly harm us? (Romans 8:31) How can we fail? Will we continue to trust Him…even in these most trying of times?

Here is what we should say: “Give praise to the Lord…Our help comes from the Lord…”

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Sacrifice of Serving

"Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals. And don't greet anyone on the road. "When you enter a house, first say, 'May this house be blessed with peace.' If someone there loves peace, your blessing of peace will rest on him. If not, it will return to you. Stay in that house. Eat and drink anything they give you. Workers are worthy of their pay. Do not move around from house to house. (Luke 10:3-7 NIrV)


Jesus sent out 70 others after sending the twelve (Luke 9:1-5) with similar instruction. They were to go into areas where He Himself would be visiting in the near future. They were not to take food or money, but rely upon the same Spirit who would guide their teaching to provide others to meet their physical needs as well. Jesus had just finished teaching on true discipleship (Luke 9:57-62) and He now lays out the plan. Then committed Christian worker (pastor, minister, missionary) is to work as God called him or her, and trust Him to provide.

The harvest in indeed plentiful, and we all need to answer the call God has given to each of us: To go or to support those who have gone. We cannot muzzle the ox (1 Timothy 5:18) or shut down the work by not providing for his living expenses as he shares the Good News. Those who deliver the Gospel day after day throughout the land, in churches, on the city streets, or among the various neighborhoods in which we live receive their living (support) from the Gospel.(1 Corinthians 9:14) It’s their job! We are their support system!

It’s am embarrassment to the church and to us who believe when those who are called to serve are hamstrung by finances. God commanded some to go and He commanded us all to provide. Even during tough economic times we can’t stop giving! (2 Corinthians 9:10) Our commitment to Christ is a witness to the world of our dependence upon Him to supply our needs, as we trust Him. (Philippians 4:19). Let’s allow His light to shine through us.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

To Go or to Give…what is your calling for missions?

“At last you are concerned about me again. That makes me very happy. We belong to the Lord. I know that you have been concerned. But you had no chance to show it. I'm not saying that because I need anything. I have learned to be content no matter what happens to me. I know what it's like not to have what I need. I also know what it's like to have more than I need. I have learned the secret of being content no matter what happens. I am content whether I am well fed or hungry. I am content whether I have more than enough or not enough. I can do everything by the power of Christ. He gives me strength. But it was good of you to share in my troubles.” (Philippians 4:10-14 NIrV)

Since God called me into the mission field (well since I accepted His call) I remain amazed at how He uses so many others to sustain me. It’s all through Him, yet He uses so many others. Some I just knew would support the work, yet others who came along were not only surprises, but many times absolute strangers until we met. It is nothing less than astonishing how God supplies and enables when He gives an assignment.

It takes obedience from both sides. I must be obedient to stay faithful to His calling and trust in His word to supply my needs. I must admit, I do have my doubts at times. I am learning to be content in all things, not quite where Paul was! While I know what is like to have plenty at times and then find myself in need of help, I confess it’s easier to have plenty! But I am learning day by day to trust Him more and I believe my faith is growing! One thing I know: I can do all things through Christ when in His will and under His power! Yes I can!

The thing I am most amazed at is the obedience of others to give. Many have simply come up to us and placed a check or cash in our hands while saying “I just want to help out.” Wow! Many of these supporters are struggling themselves…even fellow missionaries. When God conveys His love through His people, it is nothing less than humbling. At times I just look at my wife and say, “My God…” He so loves us! My thanks is my commitment to serve more diligently, with more obedience, with more energy.

We all are called to serve in mission field in some way. How about you? Have you been called to go…or to give? May we all be obedient. It’s better than sacrifice!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

“It is fitting to proclaim your loyal love in the morning,
and your faithfulness during the night…” (Psalm 92:2 NET)


Though this is a psalm for the Sabbath, as the inscription of Psalm 92 describes, we can enjoy our rest in Jesus every day. We don’t have to wait until Sunday morning!

In the morning, before all the excitement and challenges of the day, it is usually easy to give thanks. As God shows forth His love and care in the simple things (waking us up, the sunrise, the food on our table, clothes we have to wear, the vehicle we will be driving) we can very easily love Him in return and praise Him with words and songs of thanksgiving. We can shout to the Lord and sing His praises as we enter into His presence (Psalm 95). Worship honors God and brings forth a positive attitude to start the day. It prepares our hearts for what we will encounter throughout the day (Colossians 3:16).

Then we go out the door……

We face challenge after challenge. Time after time find ourselves struggling with our attitude, our choice of words, even our connection with our Savior. “Where are you Jesus?” “Lord, do You see what I have to put up with?” “Oh God, can you make him stop?” “How much longer Lord?”

We arrive safely home and the evening comes. As we ponder the day and all the
confrontations, we come to the conclusion that God has been right there all through the day. As we calm down, we can begin to declare His faithfulness! Though we may have been unfaithful at times during the day, trusting our own understanding and not acknowledging God at all times (Proverbs 3:5-6), He has been faithful. We have strayed off the path, though we knew His direction. We chose our own way out of selfishness, at times thinking we were ok on our own.

As we grow and mature, we come to realize that God cares about every aspect of our lives; big things, small things, work issues, family issues, and everything in between. The psalmist may have written this song for Sabbath worship, but I am challenged to use it day after day as a reminder to be ever thankful for not only His love, but His eternal faithfulness. I love my God so much, but how much more effective would I be for Him if would just be more faithful to Him!

one stable foundation,

Then  as He went out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings  are here! ” ...