• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

It’s hard to think of others … first

We often cite the verse from Philippians 2: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  It’s a biblical reminder to not be selfish in our approach to life (and ministry). The reality, though, is that it’s just plain hard to do.  It’s hard to think of others … first.

As cross cultural workers for the Gospel, we have learned how to do.  We were trained and given opportunity to do the ministry.  It’s what we were called to do by God.

Now there is nothing wrong with doing.  God created us, brought us to Himself, redeemed us, and made us part of His family to carry out the good works He has planned for us.  That’s another way of saying that being and doing are inter-related.  Knowing who you are in Christ pushes you to want to serve Him.  And in serving Him, we find ourselves driven back regularly to Christ and the cross for the assurance of His love and grace.

We take delight in doing God’s work, in giving our energy to see the Gospel shared and applied.  The problem arises when we consider that relationship and work as only individual and not collective.  In other words, a large part of our doing should be to equip and empower others to do the ministry as well (Ephesians 4:12-17).  And yet, it’s just hard to think of others first.

Let me share a few ideas for us to consider:

First, sit down with a disciple or another worker/leader that you are helping to grow and develop.  Ask them to describe for you, in five minutes, a life changing event that they experienced.  Listen carefully. Ask clarifying questions.  When they are finished, re-tell the story to them.  This will provide a gauge of your capacity to listen well to another.

Second, think about a disciple or another worker/leader that you are helping to grow and develop.  Ask yourself: what could this person become if they gave energy to this one area of their life and ministry?  Then determine one way you could help this person identify that growth need and begin working on it. This will help us begin to think of others’ growth as well as our own.

Finally, pray.  Pray that you would grow in your capacity to listen well, ask questions, and graciously push another towards growth.  And focus specific prayer on that disciple or other worker/leader that you are helping to grow and develop.  Ask God to use you to empower them in ministry.

Dependency is where it all starts

The Pray Big Initiative is meant to challenge each of us in the WT Global community to increased prayer for new workers.  We know, and we believe that it is ultimately God who raises up new workers.  He may use us in that process, but we are a dependent people.

I love the very first chapter title: Prayer is dependent, and Begg’s very first statement: “To pray is an admission and an expression of dependence.”  Dependency is where it all starts.

However, that’s where our struggle also starts.  In our devotional reading this morning, Rebecca and I came across this comment: “The thought that any fallen human being would be able to perform his or her way into acceptance with God has to be the most insane of all delusions. Yet we all tend to think that we are more righteous than we are, and when we think this, we have taken the first step to embracing the delusion that maybe we’re not so bad in God’s eyes after all.” 

Dependency strikes deep to our sense of self-sufficiency, our ‘competency’ to do the work to which the Lord has called us.  It’s not through mustering more prayer that more workers will join us.  Though, yes, we do need to pray more to the God of the harvest.  Our hope is in Him, and all our prayers are a humble expression of our worship and thanks, pleading with Him to be faithful to His promises.

Let’s pray together the prayer that Alistair Begg wrote at the end of that first chapter of Pray Big:

Father, thank you for the privilege of addressing you in this way.  Help me to remember that the Lord Jesus obtained this access for me through his death on the cross.  Please help me to remember that I am entirely dependent on the work of the Holy Spirit as I pray, and entirely dependent on you in my life in every way. Help me to learn to pray as I pray for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Why you should watch (read) this …

People regularly send me a large number of articles, books, videos or podcasts that they feel I should read or watch.  Usually, the short sentence in the email goes something like this: “Read this article and thought it might be of interest to you.” 

Now, I do appreciate the effort that people take to share important or helpful material with me, and perhaps you do as well when you receive notes like this.  The only difficulty though is that if I read or watched everything that was sent, it would probably fill my entire week. 

However, what I have come to appreciate even more are those people who share an article, book or video and do one or all of the following: 

  • They provide a brief summary of what was said or written in the article or video;
  • They explain why they believe it would be helpful for me to give the time to read or listen to what they sent;
  • They explain what possible application(s) there might be to my life and/or the ministry of World Team.

That’s what I would like to do with you in sharing the attached video that I believe would be worth taking the 15 minutes to watch it:

  • In this video, J.I. Packer (author of Knowing God) shares his ministry timeline and the critical influences in his life and ministry.
  • I believe it would be helpful to take the time to watch this video because J.I. Packer provides solid reasons for lifelong learning, and calls us to the ongoing work of reading and reflection in order to grow as a believer.
  • Possible application: Our training team will soon be proposing an app that will allow each WT member to identity growth areas and personal growth steps.  J.I. Packer gives solid motivation for engaging in that learning and growth process.

The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification

Walter Marshall, in his book: The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, writes:

We are all, by nature, void of all strength and ability to perform acceptably that holiness and righteousness which the law requireth … [The] doctrine of original sin, which Protestants generally profess, is a firm basis and ground-work to the assertion now to be proved, and to many other assertions in this whole discourse.  If we believe it to be true, we cannot rationally encourage ourselves to attempt an holy practice, until we are acquainted with some powerful and effectual means to enable us to do it … Men show themselves strangely forgetful, or hypocritical, in professing original sin in their prayers, catechisms, and confessions of faith; and yet urging upon themselves and others the practice of the law, without the consideration of any strengthening, enlivening means; as if there were no want of ability, but only of activity.” 

Maybe it might be best to ‘translate’ Marshall’s thoughts into language we could more easily grasp or understand.

All of us know that we are brought from the shame of sin to the honor of a beloved child of God by the work of Christ on our behalf.  God opens our hearts that we might put our faith and trust in the Gospel of Christ (Ephesians 2)

However, though we know that is by grace and the Gospel that we become members of God’s family, we tend to see the Christian life that follows as our own effort and work to please the Father.

Marshall states that the doctrine of original sin would tell us otherwise.  Just as we came into this relationship with the God of the universe by faith, so we live out that relationship by faith.  He enables us to believe in Him, and He enables us to live for Him.

If that is true, then it impacts how we live and what we share with other disciples.  For example, when we call a disciple to obey God’s Word, we must call them as well to plead with God for the grace to obey.

Would love to hear other examples that might come to your mind

Partnering Prayer

I read this post (How God is Teaching Me to Pray as I Raise Support) on a blog (https://supportraisingsolutions.org/) about partnership development and wanted to share it with our World Team Global community because of its emphasis on prayer for all aspects of life and ministry.  Hope it encourages your heart!

“Embarking on a season of raising support probably provides one of the best opportunities you will ever have to grow in your prayer life. 

  • You have a great need that is impossible to meet on your own. 
  • You are taking a leap into the unknown, with only your Father to catch you. 
  • You are daily involved in a sometimes tedious, sometimes hair raising task requiring humility, courage, and patience.

I predict that during support raising you will see flabbergasting reminders of God’s goodness and His ability to provide—along with frequent reminders of your own weakness. And on top of it all, you’re going to have a thousand questions—what to ask for, why God works the way He does, and how to approach Him—questions that can only be answered by pressing in. Please don’t let this season pass without taking up the challenge to really pray.

The most important lesson I’ve learned over the years is that I must remember to Whom I’m praying. This is key. Sometimes I’m tempted to pray like I’m rolling the dice and shouting, “Come on, big money!” Who am I approaching? My good, good Father. He called us to serve Him, and He has everything we need to obey Him. It never ceases to astonish me that my support goal is a light thing to the Lord (and would be even if I had to raise ten times as much)! The One who loves and provides for the sparrow also loves and provides for me.

With that firmly in mind, here are four ways God is teaching me to pray:

1. Honestly

What is it I am really asking God to do? Am I asking Him for that, or am I whittling my request down to make it somehow easier for Him to answer? While it can be helpful for my to-do list to break my big support goal down into small, achievable steps, I don’t need to likewise break my big prayer request into little chunks for God. The temptation to do so betrays a lurking suspicion in my heart—that my requests are beneath the Lord, or that asking for the whole need is too much for Him. 

Are you worrying, subconsciously, about offending Him? He knows your need and your heart, so spill it. If you know your motives are wrong, confess that and ask Him to change you, but at least be honest.

2. Fearlessly

Is it a big goal? Good, then you will absolutely know that it is beyond you! George Müller said, “The greatness of the sum required affords me a kind of secret joy; for the greater the difficulty to be overcome, the more will it be seen to the glory of God how much can be done by prayer and faith.” Pray in faith—pray for faith—and spend as much time thanking God for His provision as you spend asking Him to supply. When I can’t summon the faith to thank God expectantly for the future, at least I can thank Him for the past—after all, He has provided for me time and again!

3. Eternally

I must remind myself not to get so bogged down by dollars. Money, after all, is a human invention. The God I worship “owns the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10), and will certainly not withhold the resources I need to obey Him. Ask God to accomplish the bigger vision for your ministry. Then ask Him to provide anything you need for that to happen. Praying for the mission rather than the money is not only infinitely more significant, it engages in the spiritual battle raging all around. It also has a way of inspiring tenacity, reminding me of why I’m doing this in the first place. Money? That’s the easy part. 

4. Selflessly

Pray for your supporters, current and future. Pray that this adventure would stretch their faith too, and be just as much a divine appointment for them as for you. Over the years, we have watched as one supporter placed his trust in Christ for the first time and another sold his grand house to go into ministry himself. We have seen supporters battle cancer, Alzheimer’s, financial crises, and grief, and have heard their prayer requests for strength and courage. Praying for them is just as important as the “front lines” work of ministry we do from day to day. It is a privilege and an honor to call them our friends. I am learning (slowly, slowly) the very real beauty of support raising after decades spent doing it. The mission our family has pursued all these years is emphatically not ours alone—it is the vision and work of our entire team. These saints who sacrificially and generously give to keep us in ministry share in our reward; we owe them our gratitude and our faithful prayers. 

As you work to raise up a team who will then work to hold up your arms as you serve the King, don’t let the enemy convince you of the futility or the frustration of this task. Let this season be a rich time of training for your heart. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8).” 

The Gospel Responds to ALL our needs

Day by day, as we listen to the news reports coming from around the world, we are further struck by the injustice, intolerance, hatred and anger that fills the hearts of people today.  Like the psalmist, we cry out: “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?  Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”  (10:1)

The damages caused by pandemic crises, inequality, racism, and a disregard for the lives of others made in the image of God make it hard to know where to begin to respond in the midst of this mess we call our world today.

Our “hope is built on nothing less than Jesus and His righteousness”.  It is the Gospel that responds to ALL our needs.  For we who trust in Jesus, it is self-evident that the only hope for this world is the Gospel of Christ.

Here’s the rub.  First, I misquoted the hymn above by Edward Mote (19th century).  It should read: our “hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness”.  Jesus gave Himself up as a sacrifice for us: His blood was shed for us. He experienced discrimination, prejudice, evil intent, and even an unjust death in order to free us from the power of sin & evil to rule our lives.  Second, for the Gospel to be the answer to ALL the needs of this world, it needs to be the answer to ALL our needs as well.  As a friend once said to me: “If the Gospel is not good news for us each day, it will not be good news for others.” 

That same injustice, intolerance, hatred and anger that we deplore in our world today lurks (lies in wait) in each of our hearts.  The Gospel needs to search our hearts (Psalm 139.23-24) and put its searchlight of truth on those ways where we need repentance and faith.

We are no better than others, but we have a God who is capable of dismantling those ‘hurtful ways’ within us, and a God who continually builds into us the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience ….

I leave us with this prayer:  “We weep. We lament. We mourn. But not as those who have no hope.  May gospel beauty rise from these smoldering, literal ashes. May truth triumph over lies and grace conquer lawlessness. May your people be one as you, O Father, and your Son are one. May the church—the body of Christ, the bride of Christ—rise up as an example of love and with a message of salvation for a weary and war-torn world. Give us grace to serve you, O God, and, if necessary, grace to suffer for what is right. Give us the peace and health and safety we do not deserve. Give us the reformation and revival we need.  Lord have mercy.”