Category Archives: Loving God

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!

Infecting Unbelief

Numbers 14:36-37a,  “And the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation grumble against him by bringing up a bad report about the land—the men who brought up a bad report of the land— died by plague before the Lord.” ESV

This is not the warm fuzzy verse to start your day. It’s an important one, however.

Of the 12 spies sent into Canaan, ten returned with a very negative, overly emotional report that turned the entire nation againt God. The statement above gives us a quick synopsis of what happed to those ten. First, however, understand what they did:

  • They “made all the congregation to grumble” against the Lord. The word “grumble” in Hebrew means to stop, stay permanently, to be obstinate. The verbal expression of that condition is to complain. This is important to know because the people were not just afraid or lacking some faith. They had an agressive position of stubborness. Their sinful state had positioned them to never enter Canaan. They had no intention at all of ever following hard after God.
  • They brought a “bad report about the land.” The Hebrew used here literally means to slander. It reveals that what was spoken by the spies was not a logical assessment of what they had found. This was an emotional, determined negative report trying to make the land look really bad. In fact, the idea is that, as they were giving this report, they were undermining God’s plan for their nation. “Slander” is an agressive sinful assault on a person’s character. This was an intentional report meant to bring dishonor to God.

As I consider this, I can’t help but think that the Israelites failed to care for their souls. Could it be that bitterness, anger, and rage had captured them so deeply that they were incapable of following God no matter how obvious He proved His love for them? Could it be that their distrust of God had grown so deep over the years and through the generations that they were unwilling to change their view of God?

What a powerful reminder that no matter what it takes, we must do the deep honest cleansing work that God wants and needs to work in us. We can never go where God is leading if we are not healthy in our soul.

Let me conclude with a few thoughts from this sobering passage:

  1. The stakes are high for leaders. The plague that wiped out the 10 negative spies came quickly and decisively.
  2. Negativity is more than just a view, but rather, a dangerous sin often rooted in unresolved issues that have infected the soul.
  3. Leading others away from God’s best plan is a dangerous exercise.

Infecting others with disbelief is a losing proposition.

God’s Intention

Does God expect or intend every believer to have a heart for the world? How about every church?

I just finished a brief study to answer this question. It’s a fair one, by the way. If the answer is “no”, then we can go about our business without much personal concern for the “remotest parts of the earth.” As a Christian or a church, it’s reasonable to query whether or not God expects me (us) to ALL be engaged with global concerns. We know that God “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son”, but how does that affect us as individuals? How does that affect my church?

I’m unable to give you the nitty gritty details of the full Bible study, so here are a few highlights:

  • God is committed that every people group hear the gospel and respond to it (Matthew 24:14)
  • Jesus’ final imperative statement accentuates our responsibility to “disciple the ethne'” (the nations). This, by the way, was not only for those standing there when Jesus spoke these words. He knew these few would never reach the remotest parts in their lifetimes. He was thinking of us… (Matthew 28:19)
  • John’s future vision reveals that ALL nations will worship the LORD. Want to get in on what He’s doing? (Revelation 15:4)
  • God set apart the great apostle Paul to be the catalyst to reaching the Gentiles — all non-Jews. (Romans 11:3; Galatians 2:8) This is a God-priority.

So let me conclude with three brief, but important challenges:

  1. Love who God loves.
  2. Pursue what God pursues.
  3. Receive God’s FULL favor through FULL obedience.

Yes–I’m convinced that intends every believer and every church to be engaged in reaching the world for Jesus.

Now what?

 

 

All the Difference

God listens.

The Psalmist states, “To you I call, O LORD my Rock; do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if you remain silent, I will be like those who have gone down to the pit,” Psalm 28:1.

David declares the critical difference that a listening God makes in our lives–it puts us on a totally different tragectory than those who do not follow after God. As stated here, if God doesn’t respond to our “call”, we will be like all the others that “have gone down to the pit.”

There are three parts to the above statement:

  1. We call.
  2. God listens.
  3. God communicates.

This, of course, is not news to us. We know these things! However, what we may have overlooked in the “equation” is how desperately we need to hear God’s voice. If we fail to hear from God, we default to a pathway on which godless people tread. We will “be like those who have gone down to the pit.” So call out to Him, know that He hears you (especially when you feel like He’s absent), and listen closely to how He responds.

God speaks in many ways…

  • His Word
  • Circumstances
  • Whispers–those easily overlooked directives and thoughts He places in your mind
  • Through godly people
  • Divine appointments
  • Unscripted opportunities
  • Health or non-health (our bodies tell us things on God’s behalf…)
  • An infinite number of other ways, too

So, call to Him, know He hears, and listen very closely to what He speaks in return. It makes ALL the difference.