• 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!

Drilling down

ArchibaldAlexanderArchibald Alexander was a professor for many years in the mid nineteenth century at Princeton Theological Seminary (USA).  In his work, Thoughts on Religious Experience, he asked ‘why’ we grow so slowly as Christians.  Ray Ortlund records Alexander’s response to his own question in this way:

First, he rounded up the usual suspects: “The influences of worldly relatives and companions, embarking too deeply in business, devoting too much time to amusements, immoderate attachment to a worldly object,” and so forth.  But then he drilled down further and asked why such things even get a hold on us, “why Christians commonly are of so diminutive a stature and of such feeble strength in their religion.”  He proposed the following reasons: 

  1. “There is a defect in our belief in the freeness of divine grace.” Even when the gospel is acknowledged in theory, he wrote, Christians define their okayness according to their moods and performances rather than looking away from themselves to Christ alone.  Then, in our inevitable failure, we become discouraged, and worldliness regains strength in us, with nothing to counteract it.  “The covenant of grace must be more clearly and repeatedly expounded in all its rich plentitude of mercy, and in all its absolute freeness.”

Two things stand out for me in Alexander’s response.  One is the relevancy of his words almost two hundred years later.  How often do you and I determine our ‘okayness’ by our feelings or our actions, as if God’s favor towards us depends on our ‘work’ rather than His work?  So many of the things Alexander describes can still ‘catch us in their web’ and keep us from turning our eyes regularly to Christ.

The other is the importance of ‘speaking the gospel’ to ourselves daily by ‘expounding the (the covenant) of grace in all its rich plenitude of mercy’.  To put it in other words, when we ‘preach the gospel’ to ourselves daily, it is not by a simple repetition of the facts of the Gospel.  Rather, when we ‘speak that gospel’ to one another, we are to search together to know more and more the height, width, depth and breadth of His love for us (Ephesians 3:18)

How might you describe the depth of the richness of His mercy today?  Why not share that in a note or a whatsapp message with a fellow worker in the Gospel?

Lost people matter

Have you ever come to the point where you have said to yourself: “I think I’ll just go and get a ‘regular’ job”?  As if to say that letting go of ministry would give you a ‘much easier’ life?

With a couple of colleagues, my wife and I are reading through the book: The Attentive Life.  I stumbled across this quote today in my reading: “The gracious indwelling of God with his people is not an invitation to settle down and forget the rest of the world: it is a summons to mission, for the Lord who indwells with his people is the one who goes before them in the pillar of fire and the cloud.  So the promise of his presence is clinched in the words, “Up, let us go hence.”  There is a mission to be fulfilled. There is a conflict to be waged with the powers of this world.”

Our calling is not one to a ‘cozy time by the fire’, but rather one where a God who abides in us, and we in Him, will cause us to see others as He sees them.  We will see lost people who © Martin Investigative Services, private investigators, www.marmatter to God.  We will see men and women created in His image, yet living broken lives separated from Him.

There are days when our calling wanes.  Those are the days when we need to drive our ‘root system of life’ deeper into Jesus, deeper into His steadfast love and grace.  Yet, it’s easy to tell ourselves we need to do that, but it’s just plain hard sometimes to make it happen.

That is why we need to cry out to God for His help in learning to ‘abide’ in Him; in learning to be attentive to Him in all that happens in our day.  We can remind ourselves of the importance of abiding. Others can remind us as well.  However, God needs to work in our hearts to cause us to draw near to Him and draw from His fountain of grace and wisdom.

Lost people do matter to God.  Abiding in God will thrust us out as cross cultural workers into the world with a renewed heart to share His Gospel.

Lost people matter to God.  Lost people will matter to us as well.

A practical example

Last week, I wrote a post titled: “Why I am not the centre“.

In that post, I made the following statement: “I’m not the centre because we (you and I in each of our ministries) want to ‘release people into ministry’.  So, at a given moment, the ‘spotlight’ has to go off of us and on to someone else.  Someone else has to be ‘equipped’ and ‘released’.

Pat & Jeannie sent me the video clip below.  When I viewed it, I realized it was a tangible example of why I, why we are not the centre.

Let’s take joy in the fact that we are part of an ever growing multicultural community of believers who long to share Christ with others.  Let’s take joy in how the Gospel can truly change the hearts of people.

Lost people can be invisible

I shared this short biblical meditation with the World Team Global Alliance (WTGA) last week:

We read in Ruth 2:10-11: “Then she fell on her face bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?”  But Boaz answered here, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how  you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before.””

invisibleRuth was invisible to a large part of the world around her.  She was a refuge, an immigrant, a foreigner.  Yet, out of all the workers in his field, Boaz noticed her.  She was not invisible to him.  He moved towards this foreigner and served her in ways that way beyond the cultural norms of the day.

Our world is shifting constantly.  In a recent UN report, it was stated that a record 65.6 million people are either refugees, asylum seekers or internally displaced across the globe. Will these people remain invisible to us?

In a blog post last month titled: What’s In a Name, I wrote: “No one calls her, ‘Ruth’… Ever feel that way in cross cultural ministry?  That somehow your defining quality is not ‘Steve’, ‘Heather’ or ‘Joy’?  That the words more likely to come out of a neighbor’s mouth are: “Oh, you’re looking for the ‘Czech guy’.  He lives two doors down.”  You can begin to feel like a name-less person without roots; a person just ‘passing through’.

Knowing that my identity is solidly anchored in what He says about me, I can move into my world with confidence and courage. I can give all my effort daily to serve the people to whom He has called me because His voice rings in my ears throughout the day: “You are mine!  I have bought you with a price.  No one can snatch you out of my hand.”

It is with that solid assurance that we are not invisible to our God that we can move into this incredible context of displaced people and ‘see’ who He wants us to see and to whom He wants us to minister.

This is our prayer as a WTGA and as WT workers as we move forward in this year.

Mission Forward

Mission Forward.  The term suggests movement or traction.  Perhaps, we ought to write forwardit: Mission (moving) Forward? More importantly, the term oozes enthusiasm and delight. Perhaps, we should edit it again to read: Mission (moving) Forward (with shouts of joy)?

You might be thinking that sounds kind of silly, but you and I know there is a difference between ‘moving forward’ in a long slow lane of traffic and ‘moving forward’ with a project where many team members are involved and contributing.  In both cases, you are ‘moving forward’.  However, the one brings you no real joy while the other creates a wellspring of joy that pushes you out to share the work with more people.

Our ‘mission’ is to work together in teams to see communities of believers birthed who will in turn give birth to other communities who will in turn give birth to other communities.  Our ‘vision’ is characterized by innovation, multiplication and expansion.  We want to approach the same task, but via different approaches or avenues.  Our goal is always a chain reaction of multiplication.  Our focus is on those who have the least opportunity to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

If Mission Forward is currently synonymous with drudgery for us, then we may need some ‘outside-in’ perspective.  We may need someone to help lift our eyes above the grind and see how our God is at work in this world.  If Mission Forward isn’t currently causing that gospel joy to well up in our hearts, then we may need to ask the Spirit to drive 1 John 4.19 deeper into our hearts.  If Mission Forward is one’s current driving motivation, then we should spread that joy to others and draw them into the work.

Mission Forward.

Are you growing tired of being excited?

The other day, I talked about how “whether you are in your 30s, 40s, 50s or 60s, one of the first ways to ‘fan the flame’ again of the movement is to sit and listen to a new worker making one of their first presentations to supporters.  It warms one’s heart to hear how God called them to work among these people with this team to fulfill this common vision.”  Then I realized that might not be the case for everyone.

TiredWhen that kind of talk doesn’t stirs one’s heart, one’s excitement or passion reservoir may be in the red.  What I mean by that is that life and ministry, in the short term or long term, can gradually ‘snuff out’ the passion that God placed in our hearts at the start to multiply disciples and communities of believers, to bring the Gospel to lost people everywhere we go.

In reality, it’s the same with the impact of the Gospel in our lives. We can so easily forget the ‘music’ that wooed our hearts to Jesus. We need to ‘awaken’ our hearts afresh each day to that amazing story of Christ’s love for us.

So it is with the mission God to which God called us.  Hearing the stories of others (in print, in person, by video) can serve to remind us of God’s call on each of lives that brought us to Himself.  Hearing the stories of others can also serve to remind us of that call of God that brought us to where we serve and minister now.

We can all grow tired. We can all lose our passion from time to time.  Yet, we’re part of a movement and other members can ‘call us back’ to that passion which drove us to serve where we are; to ‘call us back’ to God.

What’s in a name?

Ruth arrived in Israel with Naomi after quite a series of difficult circumstances. Ruth, seemingly, did not even take the time to unpack her suitcases before she set out to find ways to provide for their material needs.  She ended up gleaning, by sovereign design, in the field whats-in-a-name-bannerof Boaz, a potential kinsman redeemer (2:20)

What strikes me the most in this biblical narrative is that everyone knows about Ruth, without knowing Ruth.  In other words, in spite of her incredible work ethic, Ruth is consistently referred to as the ‘Moabite woman’ (2:6).  No one calls her, ‘Ruth’.

Ever feel that way in cross cultural ministry?  That somehow your defining quality is not ‘Steve’, ‘Heather’ or ‘Joy’?  That the words most likely to come out of a neighbor’s mouth are: “Oh, you’re looking for the ‘Czech guy’.  He lives two doors down.”  You can begin to feel like a name-less person without roots; a person just ‘passing through’ another culture.

Incarnational living starts with a choice. Incarnational living also calls for that same choice to be made daily.  That choice is to find my identity first and foremost in what Jesus says about me.  Despite how others around me may ‘label’ me, Jesus knows me and calls me by my name (Isaiah 43:1; John 10:3).

Knowing that my identity in solidly anchored in what He says about me, I can then move into my world with confidence and courage to ‘reach, invest, equip and release’ others. I can give all my effort daily to serve the people to whom He has called me because His voice rings in my ears throughout the day: “You are mine!  I have bought you with a price.  No one can snatch you out of my hand.”