Category Archives: Uncategorized

At the Top of the World

Church planters in training, all from one congregation.

Church planters in training, all from just one congregation.

The church is growing faster in Nepal than in any other country in the world right now. Don’t get me wrong, there is so much that still needs to be done. With approximately 2% Christian in the country, most have still never heard of Jesus. However, true multiplication is happening with astounding effectiveness among believers there. Three primary reasons account for this phenomenon:

  1. God has chosen to bless this nation and work in rare ways in these days.
  2. Believers are reading the Word and doing what it says. In contrast to a predominantly knowledge-based discipleship in the US, the churches in Nepal function under an obedience-based discipleship model. By the way, so did Jesus.
  3. Good and godly leaders are setting the pace. Apostolic-type leaders are committed, intentional and focused to get done what Jesus told us to get done–make disciples.

It’s a tremendous privilege for Converge to be deeply engaged in the movement among these amazing people. Within our network, 856 house churches have been started in the past 18 months. I’m confident the numbers will only get bigger and harvest greater. To God be the glory!

Priority

Priorities slip. The things that we should always highly value have a way of getting lost in the fray.

ivansusancruise2013I recently looked at my wife’s calendar and was humbly reminded of how easily this happens. There in her calendar, on every Tuesday night, was a notation, “Date with Ivan.” Oh wow! This was a commitment I had made some time ago because my relationship with Susan needed time and commitment. Somewhere in the busy schedules and demanding responsibilities, I lost sight of that priority. It’s time for a recommitment.

When Jesus said, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority, but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses…”, He was giving us a clear priority.

  • Holy Spirit power trumps end times information.
  • Doing is more important than knowing.
  • Our curiosity must be held in check by Jesus command.
  • God does His part and we need to do ours.

In essence, Jesus was telling His disciples that nothing matters more than being His witnesses. Our active involvement in His plan of redemption for all mankind is to be an ultimate priority in our daily lives. Our love for Jesus is not best expressed by determining the time of His return, but by engaging in the command He has delivered.

Hold on–you may not be an eschatological wiz. You’re not enamored by end times puzzles. But, you may have let something else creep in and crop out God’s directive. It’s all the same. If we’re not doing what He desires, it doesn’t really matter why. The fact is, we’re missing in action. That’s what matters.

So here’s a important priority to embrace. Take Jesus’ words to heart. Are you involved in spreading the word about what Jesus has done for you? The priority is simply this–be His witness. Tell what you have seen heard and experienced. Again and again and again…

Perspective

Our paradigm of understanding is a box. We usually see things from our perspective with little or no thought about how others may understand the same thing.

Kolkata slum womanTake world events, for instance. So many well intentioned believers, seeing the evil and chaos everywhere, are sure that Christ must be returning soon. This “conviction” is often driven by a desire to avoid suffering rather than having been derived out of the pages of Scripture.

Jesus made it clear that “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations (ethne’), and then the end will come,” Matthew 24:14. J. Oswald Smith declared, “We talk of the Second Coming; half of the world has never heard of the first.” Yes,  there are still over six thousand unreached people groups (ethne’) in the world. The task has not been accomplished.

Don’t get me wrong. Jesus could come any day, but from the view of Scripture, it looks like we have some serious work still to do.

In the days ahead, I would like you to join me in a search to understand our part, beginning with a very familiar, but vaguely understood statement of Jesus: “It’s not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority, But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth,” Acts 1:7-8.

I’m convinced that every person and every church is to play an irreplaceable role in God’s big plan. Let’s go for it!

It’s a Beautiful Thing

Herschbergers in Guadalajara 2013

Glenn and Susan Herschberger at a recent gathering in Guadalajara, Mexico.

I recently had a wonderful Skype session with a couple of our sharp missionaries in Panama City, Glenn and Susan Herschberger. We had an opportunity to catch up just a little, talk through a few tweaks we need to work on in the Home Office, threw around a few possibilities for future ministry, and just had a nice time chatting together. I love how technology brings us to close to one another even though we are thousands of miles apart.

For me, the highlight came when I asked Glenn, “What do you love most about what you’re doing in Panama?” Without a moment’s hesitation, and with a grin on his face, Glenn declared, “I love the diversity, the color. It’s the heart of God. It’s a beautiful thing.” I saw the passion of a true missionary coming through with startling clarity. When God’s heart-beat becomes our heart-beat, we’re in the bull’s-eye of God’s plan for ministry.

Scripture declares,

  Who will not fear, O Lord,
and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
 All nations (ethnos, meaning race, tribe, or people group) will come
and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”  Revelation 15:4 ESV

God longs for all the people groups of the earth to worship Him. When people of diverse cultures, races, and traditions gather to worship, a profound beauty emerges. People sacrifice personal preferences, give up traditions, grasp new ways and practices for the sake of others, live out selfless community life, and greatly honor the God who longs for all people to worship Him together.

  • This is God’s desire, not only in glory, but right here on planet earth. After all, Jesus prayed, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”
  • This is God’s desire, not only for Panama City, or other A2:5 English-speaking church plants around the world, but for your church, your city, and your community.

It’s a beautiful thing!

Five Cheers for Cameroon!

Susan and I recently returned home from a 9-day trip to Cameroon. Our goal was to meet 10 of our Converge Worldwide missionaries there, see what their ministries are like, be of encouragement to them, listen and learn. All of these things were accomplished and more. Here’s the “more” part…

We were so blessed by the faithful service of our missionaries in some difficult places, such as:

  1. A couple teaching in a seminary in northern Cameroon. In a fairly remote region, with very few modern conveniences, they faithfully train pastors to start and strengthen churches. Learning the culture, dealing with the challenges of the differing leadership motif, and experiencing loss at the complete life-change they’ve endured, they continue to effectively multiply themselves by trainining and sending leaders to grow the Kingdom in Cameroon. I am humbled by their sacrifice and perseverance.

    pic1

    A team of missionaries in remote Cameroon.

  2. One couple has been ministering among a very hard to reach Muslim people group — about .01% Christian. With few conversions to speak of, they continue to help the herders in that region be successful in their farming endeavors. They simply love on the people in the name of Jesus as they meet some very real and urgent needs for survival. I am amazed at their unrelenting spirit to press on no matter what.
  3. A surgeon and his wife are helping to train surgeons for the Cameroon people — there are so few. While addressing the daunting needs of health care in this African nation, they are multiplying themselves to meet a pressing need among these people — all in the name of Jesus. Their lives are quite simple compared to what a doctor could have in the US, inconvenienced for the sake of Christ. They are the presence of Jesus in a region where Christ desperately needs to be experienced. I’m thankful for their sacrifice and excited about the difference they are making in Cameroon.
  4. You don’t often think of a contractor being a missionary, but this one is making a profound impact in Cameroon. His leadership, creativity, hard work, vision and ingenuity have been major ingredients in seeing a small hospital become a national center of health care. His wife is constantly teaching, building relationships with the lost, and loving on people in very practical ways. They remind me of how God’s unique giftings can be used to make a profound impact for God’s glory.
  5. On a hike with three Doctors in beautiful Cameroon!

    On a hike with three doctors in beautiful Cameroon!

    And then there is the hardship post, inhabited by a doctor and his wife who arrived on the scene 13 years ago intending to stay just two years. They’ve taken a small clinic and turned it into a full-fledged hospital in a very needy region of remote Cameroon. They partner with a church planting team there, as well as a Christian radio station that daily spreads the gospel to people who have never heard the Truth before. They are now 75 years old. When asked how long they intend to keep doing this, Doc replied, “If our health holds, 10 to 12 more years.” Is that amazing or what?! I am inspired by their sacrifice, Christ-like love for lost people, and godly leadership which is transforming a region of the world for Christ.

So when we say we came with our agenda, we also left with God’s. Susan and I are humbled, grateful, inspired, challenged, and energized to be in the unique role of leading these amazing servants of Christ. To God be the glory.

 

Church Planting in India

Ministry opportunities and needs abound in India. Meeting church planters in India has been my primary objective on this trip — to see if there are ways we can help spur church-planting movments to happen. From meeting rural and village pastors near Pakistan, slum pastors in Mumbai, and city pastors in Vizag, I am meeting men who have sold their lives for the cause of Christ. No price is too high, no obstacle too big, no goal too lofty for these men to pursue. They toil in very difficult trenches of ministry so the lost will be found. They want to bear much fruit for the kingdom. This is why they do what they do. There are many jobs that would pay more, be safer and easier. They are spending their lives for the gospel. As long as they are doing that, they would like to be very productive.

They need:

  • Practical ministry training and strategy assistance.
  • Consistent and passionate prayer support.
  • Help finding solutions to major ministry challenges (each area’s are unique)
  • People and churches that really care and love on them in relevant ways.

Lord, speak to me so I will know what I should do–What Converge Worldwide should do to see your Kingdom come and your will be done in India as it is in Heaven.

Off to India!

I’m on my way to India! I have three primary reasons for this trp:

  • To re-establish long-term partnerships Converge Worldwide has had out there.
  • To discover new potential ministry opportunities to bring the gospel to the many unreached there. It contains about a fifth of the world’s people and is rated fifth in the world in need of pioneering missionaries.
  • To spend extensive time with a godly leader in India to see if an ongoing partnership may be feasible.

As for me, I’m deeply humbled to do this…and very excited. I will experience amazing things — meeting pastors from cities, villages and slums, orphans and handicapped, great leaders and rare servants, visiting Mother Theresa’s ministry center in Kolkata and preaching in the church William Cary founded there. I will spend time with refugees in camps and tribes desiring to reach the unreached around them.

As I step into this incredible land of unique opporunity filled with people Jesus deeply loves, I know my utter dependence upon God. I want to see what Jesus would see, love like Jesus would love, and leave the impact that Jesus would leave. For this to happen, I must die to self and live in the Spirit.

Please pray for me when you think of it.   And watch my blog. I’ll keep you posted.

Despising God’s Goodness

The first generation of exiles from Egypt had every opportunity to experience the full and amazing blessings of God. Yaweh longed to give them a land of their own — and that, “flowing with milk and honey.” Instead, we see the sad story of this generation wasting away for 40 years in the wilderness. They had spurned God’s grace and chose a life of futility.

In Numbers 14:31, God states, “‘You said your children would be carried off as plunder. Well, I will bring them safely into the land, and they will enjoy what you have despised.” Oh how God despised the negativity of this 1st generation of Israelites.

  • They lived with a victim orientation. They didn’t believe that they could actually have it as good as God had declared. Instead, they chose to forsee a future of trouble, hardship, and emprisonment…even for their children. They were slaves at heart to such a degree that they couldn’t see themselves as anything different than pawns to circumstances around them.
  • They had a twisted and small view of God. Even though God has already demonstrated unlimited power through the plagues to free them, the parting of the Red Sea to save them, water from the rock to sustain them, and victory over the Amlekites to embolden them, they still suspected God of leading them to their ultimate defeat. Their twisted view of God could not embrace the truth that God is love and that He demonstrates that with ulimited grace. God was not big enough to handle the giants of Canaan, nor was He good enough to care to do it.
  • They lived with an expectation of disappointment and hardship. Rather than living by faith, they were defeated by fear. Rather than capturing the generous heart of God for His people, they languished under an attitude that said, “The whole world is against us and we’re nobodies.”

Numbers 14:31 makes it clear that the Israelites despised the good blessings that God longed to lavish on His people. The Hebrew word used for “despised” is the word “mawas.” It literally means to spurn, reject, or have a strong distaste. The idea here is that these people had no desire at all for the good things God wanted to give them. They were so caught in their negative rythm of life that they couldn’t even think of embracing another lifestyle, even if that was dreamy good. The idea of receiving what God wanted to give them repulsed them. They winced at it. They cringed at the thought. They look away when a glimpse was available.

As I think of this story, I’m reminded of several important issues for my life:

  • How easy it is to became faithless and negative rather than faithfilled and positive. In God’s economy, negativity has no place in the life of the believer. Negites deeply dishonor God. They did in this story of ages past–and they still dishonor God today.
  • When I have a distaste for the things of God–even a little–I better take note and take action. It reveals a wretchedness in me that needs to be fixed. Quickly.
  • If I fail to embrace the good things God is longing to pour into my life, I will wander in a wilderness of my own making.

How I long to see the smile of God on my life as He watches me step into unknown terrain with an attitude of faith and good expectations. How about you?

Lifestyle of Weakness

 

I’ve recently struggled with judging. When I exert judgement on others, I’m taking a position of strength and casting my “superiority” on others. We can often use the phrase “truth-telling” or “honesty” or “transparency” to justify our strong stance or expression of strong feelings. But think about it — what good comes out of judging? There are Christians littering our wake who are tattered and torn by the “honesty” we freely cast on others. Over and over and over. Don’t misunderstand me — there is a right and wrong (and not always what we’ve concluded) and there are rare times when pronouncing judgement is necessary. But we often do that to people sincerely seeking after God who fail to conform to our expectations of what that might look like.

Maybe I’m rambling, so let me simply state it this way — my new conviction today:

  • Transparency is a beautiful thing when we reveal our weakness to others. It dispenses God’s amazing grace on those who need it most.
  • Transparency is a destructive thing when reveal our “strength” to others. It imprisons people in the bondage of legalism.

I’m always amazed at the ways in which God uses “the weak things of the world to shame the the things that are strong.” God takes our weakness and makes it our greatest strength. We’ve been using the terminology “ministry of weakness” in our missions leadership team recently. All around the world, we see how God is using weak people to do His greatest work.

This principle is true every day in my life, too. God wants to use my weakness, vulnerability, humility, and failures for His glory. He wants to use this weakness to be the strength of my life — so much so that it becomes a lifestyle — a lifestyle of weakness.