Category Archives: Come and Follow

Fear and Faith

Authentic biblical faith is what enables us to overcome fear. Fear paralyzes us from significantly following after God. Fear is the number one thing that keeps us from being and becoming everything that God has in mind for you–the fear of failure, fear that God’s way won’t be as good as yours, fear that something tragic will happen, fear that God won’t come through like He says He will, fear that God won’t provide, fear of pain, fear of what others think.

We have a nation filled with Christians who are living an acceptable lifestyle, according to the standards of many churches today. We measure our Christianity according to the expectations of our Christian culture and fellow believer-friends. Many of us measure up quite well. But how does God see you? Are you living a lifestyle of risk-taking faith? Are you crazy for God? Would others say you are?

Humbled, Grateful, Dependent

I’M REPOSTING A BLOG FROM ONE YEAR AGO. IT WAS THEN THAT I BEGAN MY NEW MINISTRY ROLE OF LEADING OUR CONVERGE WORLDWIDE MISSIONS. AS I REFLECTED ON IT TODAY, I REALIZE THAT I FEEL EXACTLY THE SAME ABOUT IT AS I DID ONE YEAR AGO. I’M HUMBLED, GRATEFUL, DEPENDENT…

FROM JANUARY 4, 2012:

I’m on a new adventure! Yesterday was my first day “on the job” as Executive Director of International Ministries for Converge Worldwide (Baptist General Conference). It was awesome!

I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to serve the Lord in this capacity. I feel God’s blessing and pleasure in so many ways. I am eager to serve Him in a way that honors Him every day.

As I think about this amazing opportunity before me, I’m reminded of Ephesians 3:7-8:

“By God’s grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving him by spreading this Good News. Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ.”

With this passage in mind, allow me to share a few parallel thoughts:

  • By God’s grace (unconditional kindness extended to me) and power, He has chosen and “moved” me into this role. The list of God-things that took place to see this happen is incredible. I did not seek this office—God moved me here by His “grace and mighty power.”
  • It is a privilege. What a rare opportunity I have to serve a lost world, our missionaries around the world, and our Converge Churches across the world. I GET to do this…
  • It’s all about “spreading this Good News” to those who need to hear and be transformed. It will be fun to strategize, plan, partner, and engage in ongoing, new, and creative initiatives to be as effective as possible to see this happen. We certainly don’t want to sow sparingly.
  • I feel like the “least deserving” of this privilege. I am humbled and grateful that God has placed me for such a time as this.

The adventure is on! I have a feeling it’s going to be wild, crazy, and terribly exhilarating.

God Gets His Work Done

I’m always amazed at how God gets His work done. I’ve heard it said, “God doesn’t need me. He just chooses to involve me.” I don’t completely agree with this statement…or even its sentiment. I’m convinced that God does need me. He works through people. That’s His chosen method. That’s why Jesus said to His disciples, “Pray to the Lord of the harvest that He will send workers into the harvest.” It is the only way the harvest would be brought in. He needs me and He needs you!

He needs us to be broken and usable, too. As 1 Corinthians 1 states, “God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God,” verses 27-29. He also said, through the Apostle Paul, “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me,” 1 Corinthians 12:9.

When we’re dependent upon Him, He unleashes the Holy Spirit to work in and through us. Just yesterday, I met with three other men from across the U.S. to work on a very complex ministry action document–one that has great potential for disaster, but also for significant Kingdom impact. We began the day acknowledging our weakness (and we meant it because we all felt inferior for the task) and seeking God’s intervention. All I can say is that God did it! What was produced from one very hard day of work is amazing. All of us in the group were keenly aware that God had stepped into our meeting–that these ideas, concepts, and strategies were from Him. The results are beautiful. Only time will reveal the long-term impact of God’s intervention upon our huddle.

I’m always amazed at how God gets His work done. Through people–ordinary, weak, dependent people. He somehow breaks into the finite dimensions in which we live–the limited thoughts we can produce–and unleashes His power to accomplish surprising and wonderful things.

 

 

Forward

2012 has been a year of growth, challenge, and blessing for me.

  • Growth because God placed me in a role that requires me to completely depend upon Him.
  • Challenge because missions, especially denominational missions, is in the throws of seizmic change. We must learn how to do missions differently or we fade away.
  • Blessing because only God could take the tremendous losses we sustained and lavish us with amazing and overwhelming opportunitites for global impact. He has expanded my borders–significantly.

The nation of Israel freed from slavery has been a focus of some study in this past year. I’ve realized a few major truths through this:

  • Only obedience based upon trust in the person and character of God enables us to step into the best God has for us.
  • Achieving great things with God is only possible if it is truly all about God’s glory.
  • It takes as much courage and faith to take the land as it does to enter the land.

On that last point, I find some affinity with Israel. It took active faith and courage for Susan and me to change our entire lives just because God told us to. It will take at least as much for us to bring great glory to God in this role. And with that in mind, I will apply bullets one and two of truths learned above.

To God be the glory!

 

Knowledge or Obedience-Based Spirituality

God is moving in such amazing and unique ways around the world right now. Thom Wolf, with his finger on the pulse of what God is doing in the world, believes that the 21st century will be most ever like the 1st century — especially in India. Three trends stand out that led him to this conclusion:

  • The ministry is given back to the common Christians, not the highly educated or social elites.
  • The Holy Spirit is igniting and empowering movements way beyond human manufacturing.
  • Persecution is prevalent and purifies the church to do great things for the glory of God. Persecution always makes the church stronger, by the way…

I have been fascinated by the church planting movments (CPMs) around the world. If you want to be inspired and challenged, read “Church Planting Movements” by David Garrison and “Miraculous Movements” by Jerry Trousdale. You will find that, even though as Americans our Christianity is fairly stable and consistent, many places in the world are seeing mind-blowing Holy Spirit-led multiplication of disciples and churches — the kind that have been rare in the history of the church. God is up to something. Take notice, people.

In a recent round-table discussion of denominational mission leaders, we talked about our deep desire to see God do a new thing among our churches in the U.S. too. It led to some great conversations and valuable insights. For me, the crux of the issue is the following:

  • In our American Christianity, we have a knowlege-based spirituality. Learning leads to spiritual maturity in our motif of belief.
  • In many places in the world, there is an obedience-based spirituality. Obedience leads to spiritual maturity–simply doing what God’s word tells us to do.

What does the Bible say? Of course, so much. However, those that were the least mature in Jesus’ eyes were the Pharisees — those that had the most knowledge and information. The Scriptures tell us that “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” In contrast to this, Jesus told us that “if you love me, you will obey my commandents.”

Back to movements in the world: Movements happen where obedience rather than knowledge aquisition leads the way. This doesn’t mean information is bad, it simply means that the believers in Holy Spirit-led movements understand that obedience to what they know is essential–and they do it. In our American motif of knowledge-based spirituality, we take years to learn what we’re “supposed” to know about the Christian life…and by then we’re stale and stagnant.

As James reminds us, “For him who knows what to do and doesn’t do it, to him it is sin.”

Can we change the American spirituality motif? Of course not — only God could do that. But each of us can choose to begin a movement in our own hearts…one of complete and immediate obedience to God.

The Beauty of the Church

I’m always amazed at the church–most of the time in wonderful ways. This weekend is a case in point…

Susan and I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the Vietnamese Baptist Church of Orlando. It was a delightful cross-cultural experience for us. I preached with an interpreter, was introduced to some new customs and ways of worship, engaged with church members of all ages, and found myself worshiping with all my heart with these amazing people. The moment we drove onto the property, we were warmly greeted and honored. We immediately felt the Spirit of God in this place oozing out of all of the people. Though we had never met these folks before, we felt like family…and they treated us like long-lost siblings. The pastor and his leaders honored us more than we deserve.

Not many people have heard of the Vietnamese Baptist Church of Orlando. They haven’t garnered any headline news, don’t have large masses of people attending, and lack the attractive facilities that we Americans often demand. But God is at work in and through this congregation. With a heart for their homeland, they have links “back home” that are impacting their nation. Even with few resources, they are partnering in an effort to train pastors in Vietnam (in some creative ways, I might add) and are supporting a halfway house in Hanoi for women coming out of prison. I was impressed with their commitment to Christ and how they’re living it out in practical and relevant ways.

This is the church! We often get the idea that the church needs to be a certain way — the American way — to be blessed by God. I was

The Youth Group

reminded again this weekend that the Church of Christ is alive and well, even in places and congregations we often overlook.

 

Pastor Be' and Me

God is Watching

Santisuk English School is located in Bankok and has a 22-year history of excelling at two things: Teaching English to Thai people and loving those people in the name of Jesus.

They have had a tremendous impact on so many lives and on the community in which they live and serve.

This week, while 58 people from Santisuk were traveling in a bus on a “Bridge on the River Kwai” field trip, the driver lost control on a mountain road. Because the brakes failed to work, the full bus nearly flew over a 1000-foot drop off the side of the mountain. Instead, the driver was able to “hang on” and ram the bus into the side of the mountain. There were many injuries, but none fatal. Three of the sustained injuries are quite serious, but prognosis is quite good for full recovery for each.

In writing a letter to Santisuk for a worship service of thanksgiving tonight, I was reminded of three truths about life:

  1. That our lives are fragile and temporary on this side of Heaven. Oh—what a good reminder that each of us must always be ready by giving God our all.
  2. That God is good—all the time. Not only when things go well, but even in the midst of injuries, pain, loss, even death. The sovereign Lord knows the beginning, the end, and everything in between. Oh—to trust Him more.
  3. That God brings good things out of difficult things. This is true, of course, when we are “called according to His purposes.” He can take the horrible accident all of you have been through and work a thousand good things out of it. I’m guessing each of you can identify several of those “good things” even in your own life already. He’s amazing!

 

The wreckage from the inside...

I am so grateful for our missionaries, long-term and short-term that sacrifice greatly so the gospel can be planted in the lives of lost people. Just because we “go”, however, doesn’t mean were exempt from real life in this broken world. But God is sovereign. He knows what He’s doing and cares about every one of us. He especially has His eye on those who are living in the center of His will. As the Scriptures declare, “For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those  whose heart is completely His,” 2 Chronicles 16:9a.

When I see what could have happened in the Thailand mountains, when I see what God is doing in the aftermath of this trauma, when I see the pure joy and gratitude of those rescued from the bus, I get the idea that God was watching and supporting our friends from Santisuk.

Faithfulness

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service; even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor.” 1 Timothy 1:12-13
These words were written by the seasoned Apostle Paul to the young leader Timothy. Paul continues on to write a brief testimony of his life in Christ. First, however, he makes it clear in this verse that he is deeply grateful for the grace of God extended to him, one who is completely unworthy.
Take note of three important items:
  • Paul was “considered faithful” by the Lord. What could Paul be talking about here? Paul, formerly Saul, the aggressive persecutor of the church, came face-to-face with Jesus on the Damascus Road. His life was transformed. This great Jewish leader, however, went into “hiding” for fourteen years (Galatians 2:1) while he allowed God to work in his heart and mind. This man of great influence submitted to a long season for preparation and waiting. With humility, Saul remained faithful to the Lord, recognizing he had no rights to claim, no position to grasp, no influence to exert. He was simply faithful. Every day. Day after day after day. And then God called his name. He was “considered faithful”.
  • The Lord “strengthened” him, putting him “into service”. Faithfulness was the hinge point of God releasing his strong power, enabling him to be used greatly by God in Kingdom work.
  • Paul’s past would have no bearing on his usability in the future. The fact that he directly opposed God aggressively did not disqualify him from being an effective leader in a positive way. In actuality, this is what may have qualified him more than any other thing — his unworthiness to serve.
God is watching for faithful people. Whether in the spotlight or in the shadows of influence, God is watching the way you live out your faith. The hinge-point of God’s power unleashed in you—the key to being used greatly by the Lord–is whether or not you are faithful today. And tomorrow. And the day after and after and after…

High Expectations Early in Life

“You will all drop dead in this wilderness! Because you complained against me, every one of you who is twenty years old or older and was included in the registration will die. You will not enter and occupy the land I swore to give you. The only exceptions will be Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.” Numbers 14:29-30

Nothing like a warm-hearted verse to start your day out right! Yes–this is one of those passages in Scripture that fail to give us warm fuzzies, but it does present some powerful biblical truth.

God makes the above statement to the first generation of Israelites right after they refused to cross the Jordan River and inherit the Land. These are the ones who saw God’s mighty hand, powerful plagues, unmatched compassion, and unrelenting providence. Yet, as they stand on the eastern bank of the Jordan, they refuse to believe that God will give them what He swore to give them.

Twenty years old. Interesting.

A quick study of that age in the Old Testament reveals:

  • This is the age when they were considered men — it was time for them to contribute to the social and spiritual life of the nation.
  • This is the age when they became warriors, armed for battle.
  • This is the age when Levites were supposed to start their service in the tabernacle and temple.

In Numbers 14:29, we also realize that this is the age that God holds someone personally accountable for what decisions they make and what they do with their life. Everyone twenty years and older will die in the wilderness because they failed to honor God by stepping out in faith. Only Joshua and Caleb did this. No one else–and they will ALL be held accountable.

God has high expectations for us early in life.

Enough of sowing of “wild oats.” Away with the excesses of young adult-hood. Forget the excuses of inexperience and unrestrained compulsions. God has high expectations for us early in life.

For me, way past the age of twenty, this is a kick in the butt! It shouts at me saying, “Your life matters! Your decisions matter! God is to be honored! Live it now!” If God has high expectations for twenty year olds, He must have even higher ones for fifty-somethings. Yikes!

Don’t get me wrong. God isn’t standing over any of us with a club ready to whack us when we get out of line. Our God is characterized by grace, love, compassion, and understanding. BUT–let’s not take that too far. He expects us to honor Him. He has a right to demand this. The price paid for us is stunning–Jesus Himself as our payment. The same God who inflicted judgement on hard-hearted, faithless, and dishonoring Israelites long ago is the same God who says to us today,  “Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, ‘Life is not pleasant anymore,’” Ecclesiastes 12:1-2.

God has high expectations for us early in life…and later in life, too.