Category Archives: Loving God

A Little Pencil — repost

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.” Mother Teresa

Having seen the masses of destitute and suffering people in Kolkata, India — even so briefly — I am stricken by Mother Teresa’s statement here. This woman spent a good deal of her life selflessly ministering to the sick and forgotten of this strange city. She knows the pain, hardship, hopelessness, and despair of the slum-dwellers of Kolkata. Even with all of that, with the stench of rotting flesh still in her nostrils and the cries of dying hoards still echoing in her head, she declares the deep longing of relationship and significance in every human being. This need is greater than the food that keeps them alive.

Job made a similar declaration in his scriptural journal in chapter 23:12: “I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food!” Recognize that Job was not simply infatuated with words from his creator God, but rather, longed for interaction in a relationship that was life-giving. He valued this more than the physical food (“necessary”) that kept him alive!

We are surrounded every day by  people who are lonely, lacking significance, and feeling unwanted. What a tragedy! And this by people who are created in the image of God. They are deeply and profoundly loved by God, but often fail to be affected by that love. That’s why one of the pieces of loving God is also to love people. As Jesus said, after clarifying the greatest commandment, “The second is like it, you must love your neighbor as yourself.” We are the hands and feet and face of Jesus in our world. God loves people through His representatives! The people around us should not feel “unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody” as Mother Teresa described. We need to love those around us with a God-kind of love.

When we do this, we are loving God too!

Mother Teresa also said, “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.” This amazing lady wrote quite a few love letters, touched a mass number of lives, and loved God in an amazing way. She knew what she was talking about.

Today, be a little pencil in the hand of God…

The Mark of the Believer

“…In your faith supply…brotherly kindness…” 2 Peter 1:5,7

brothery kindnessThe Greek word used in this passage is “philadelphia”. This compound word comes from “phileo”, meaning affection or fondness and “adelphos”, meaning brother, kinsman, or relative. Considering the male-dominated society to which this letter was addressed long ago, it is no surprise that non-inclusive language was used. Despite the words used, the intention of this word has always been the idea of loving fellow believers, male and female. These fellow believers are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are spiritual siblings! We’re supposed to treat one another in this way…and maybe even better than some of us actually do treat our blood brothers and sisters.

My only sister was hospitalized a couple years ago with a dangerous and potentially lethal infection in her internal organs. It was so bad that the doctors actually told her that she may die from this – she needed to get her affairs in order. My sister is younger than me…way too young to die, it seemed. When I heard about her situation, my concerns were directed toward her…and so were my energies. I took a day to drive a couple hundred miles to see her in the hospital, hold her hand, cry with her a little, encourage her, help her bear the pain and fear, and spend some time praying and ministering to her spirit. This is what brothers do with sick sisters. We go out of our way, change our plans, and make comparatively insignificant sacrifices to care for our siblings. She was family and needed to be treated as such. By the way…it seems God intervened. The day after I was there, she turned a corner in her condition and was home in week!

The characteristic that needs to be added to our faith is a fondness or affection for fellow believers. This may seem like a no-brainer until we step back a little and take inventory. I’m occasionally stunned at the inappropriate ways fellow believers treat one another. We can unintentionally begin to view our spiritual siblings as enemies rather than comrades. Instead, the behavior of believers, one to another, is to be radically different than what we find in the non-believing world. The letter to the Ephesians describes a clear contrast between what was and what should be.

“And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:30-32)

Affection, by its very nature, is a motivating reality that comes from within. When we think of philadelphia, we are referring to BOTH outer actions AND inner feelings. When you are fond of someone or something, you are excessively tender, even overindulgent — you strongly like and cherish with unreasoning feelings.

So people, let’s be sure we love one another, because Jesus said, “By this will all people know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one another.”

Freedom or Bondage?

forgivePeter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive someone. He thought he was being really generous by suggesting “seven times.” He must have been shocked to hear Jesus’ response that we should forgive “seventy times seven.”

Jesus then shares the parable of the unforgiving servant — the one  forgiven a massive amount who would not forgive someone else a tiny amount. The point?

  • If we don’t grasp how much we’ve been forgiven, we have trouble forgiving others.
  • When we don’t forgive others, we fail to grasp how much we’ve been forgiven.
  • Unforgiveness in our hearts results in a pending response by God concerning our need for forgiveness.
  • Unforgiveness on our part result in a bondage we choose to live with.

When we deeply, emotionally, and absolutely grasp the depth and degree to which we have been forgiven, it’s not so difficult to forgive others.

If you’re having trouble forgiving others of their trespasses, you haven’t truly embraced how profoundly you have been forgiven. AND you won’t live in freedom until you do forgive.

Sell Out!

There are so many reasons to sell out to God. So many. Here are a few of mine…

  1. Nothing else matters. Not really. Everything not done for God is only a temporary blip on the big screen of history. Anything done for God is a mark left for eternity.
  2. I want my life to count for something bigger than me.
  3. I HATE being average (or less than that) at anything. Why run the race of life at a slow jog?
  4. I love being part of a great adventure! The biggest of all is what God offers to you and me. We don’t get it sometimes because we actually think God’s dreams and plans fit into our little heads. No no no! He wants to blow your mind with the adventure he has for you. You just need to trust Him…
  5. I get to make an eternal difference for other real live human beings! Every day!!! Wow!
  6. I love God. That means living for Him rather than just for me. If we could only get this… If I could only live this EVERY DAY!
  7. There’s nothing so cool as being on fire for God. There are two reasons people may not dig you if you’re on fire…they don’t have a clue or they wish they were too. And I love being cool…especially for God.

What are YOUR reasons for selling out? I’d love to hear them…

Maybe you have reasons for NOT selling out. Tell me what they are too…

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?

The Priority of Missions

A common trend in evangelical Christianity today is the movement toward holistic ministry. This orientation has a few noticeable characteristics:

  • The commitment to the lost and the poor are of equal standing–and may even favor the poor over the lost.
  • This theological view includes what we can do for others as “gospel” also, clouding the clarity of the gospel as being what Jesus has done for us.
  • It sees holistic social work as valid in and of itself apart from the responsibility of disciple making.

Yes–it is important that we are the face, hands, and presence of Jesus around the world. We must often meet the urgent needs in order to address the greatest need. We cannot ignore the human condition. But what a temptation we face in going with the flow of a trendy mission focus that reduces us to doing good things at the expense of the right thing. Only the church can offer the ultimate solution to mankind’s greatest problem of separation from God.

Available statistics reveal that from 2001 to 2005, giving toward relief and development increased by 73.4%, while for evangelism and discipleship is was only 2.7%, (Christopher R. Little, Discovering the Mission of God, p.492).young woman Numbers speak. I also have personally seen this well-intended trend all across the nation, expressed through some of our most respected churches. In our pursuit of being relevant and “current”, we may have strayed from the one thing Jesus has told us to do in His absence — to “go and make disciples of all nations.”

 

 

 

I Want that to Be Me…

The apostle Paul was a crazy man! In fact, he once told his readers that “if it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God,” 2 Corinthians 5:13. He was a man on a mission, driven to do one thing — bring the gospel to lost people. One passage in Scripture reveals Paul’s deep feelings about the urgency of this. Consider Philippians 1:12-18:

12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

15  Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. ESV

In the above verses, Paul is actually celebrating his imprisonment. Think of it. He has totally lost his freedom because of his obedience to Jesus. He can no-longer visit friends, check up on family, run to the Antioch Starbucks on a whim, or go play a game of horseshoes. He is imprisoned and eager to see what God will do with it. No resentment, regrets, or self-pity. Pretty cool.

This suffering and bondage he is living is bringing forth several God-honoring results, according to Paul:

  1. The gospel is advanced (v.12)
  2. The truth is reaching influential places it has never gone before (v.13)
  3. Those believers who are not imprisoned are infused with courage to be even more bold in the proclamation of the gospel (v.14)

But the final verses of this passage truly intrigue me. I’m fascinated by them because they reveal something of the passion within Paul. While confined in his scope of ministry, he gazes on at what’s happening in the world he cannot reach. In fact, it sounds a little like the church of today — the “preachers” are out there, but they’re not all so holy. It’s actually quite ugly with envy (wanting another person’s success) and rivalry (unhealthy competition) making the top of the dirty list.  In fact, many of those that are “preaching ugly” are trying to out-do Paul. They may be defaming him, talking him down, lifting themselves over him, and trying to get a bigger name than him. And there are some who are spreading the gospel for all the right reasons.

If I were Paul, I think I would be pretty ticked. I would be saying things like, “Christ is dishonored by impure motives.” “What a shame that the gospel is polluted by sinful attitudes.” “The gospel will never succeed in the disastrous mess.” Now these may all be true statements — I don’t really know — but I would sure feel better after expressing my disgust for all of those lowlifes. But Paul does nothing of the sort. He humbly reveals his unrelenting passion that the gospel be delivered to lost people.

“Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”

The gospel is being delivered and that’s what matter most.

In this statement, I see Paul’s dependence upon the sovereignty of God — let Him sort it out. Let Him build His church. Let Him deal with the envious rivals. Paul simply rejoices that this truth about Jesus is being heard and the Holy Spirit can then do as He pleases with it.

As I consider this passage, I am humbled by Paul’s single-minded pursuit to see the gospel delivered to those who have not heard.

It drives him.

It makes his hardships valuable.

It propels him to press on for the glory of God.

I want that to be me…

Choose…

How do we reach the world for Christ? On our recent trip to Senegal, Africa and India, we saw two very different fields.

Wolof people
Some of the beautiful Wolof people we met in Senegal.

Senegal represents a field that is rough, unyielding to seed, pummeled hard over time. Very few “seeds” planted there ever take root. Most of the work there is unglamorous, uncelebrated, difficult, and unrewarding. It’s much like rock picking from my days on the farm — you work all day, get your mouth full of dirt, ache all over, see no measurable results, and have to go out and do it again tomorrow. Only the fittest and most determined can persevere in this kind of field. The pre-planting phase — that of removing the stones and tilling the soil — is carried out by missionaries who live by faith everyday. They do it because God has told them to and because God has given them a vision of what their work will some day achieve. I honor these faithful workers. Though it is not “sexy” missions, it is critical that we continue the faith-driven hard work of preparing the soil for the planting of seeds. Our churches need to support it in every way they can. Only  then will a harvest someday be gathered. Press on, faithful servants of the Lord!

Assam people
A three-month old church of all new believers in Assam, India.

India represents a field “white for harvest.” By the sovereignty of God, massive numbers of unreached peoples are ready to embrace Jesus if only they can hear the gospel message. Jesus said, “Pray to the Lord of the harvest that He will send workers into the harvest.” This is the kind of mission work that most everyone dreams of — even Jesus did! The white fields call us to urgent all-out action. During harvest season on the farm, we would work days and nights at a time without ceasing because the season for reaping is very short. In India — from north to south and east to west — among least reach peoples who have never heard the name of Jesus, massive numbers people are coming to faith in Christ. They only need to be told. They need messengers. They need churches (groups of Jesus-followers who gather for worship, fellowship, learning, and spreading) to build a movement that will bring Holy Spirit transformation to these ethnic groups. Susan and I visited at least fifteen churches, most between three and six months old, filled with converts from Hinduism, Buddhism, Animism, and ancestral worship who are now eager and hungry followers of Jesus. Their stories of hardship, persecution, and perseverance are humbling, to say the least. It only takes $300 to plant a church among an unreached people group — and each church will reach between 15 and 30 (or more) lost people for Christ. That’s not even figuring in the new leaders and churches that spring up from each one as a result of a multiplication/mentoring DNA implanted from the beginning. We need partners who will help us reap a great God-honoring harvest.

God is at work in marvelous ways. We GET to be a part of it. Go ahead — engage in a big way. We need you. God invites you. The lost are waiting…

Connect with us at missions@convergeww.org

 

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!