• 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!

Grate-ful

Just finished reading an article by TJ Addington on gratitude.  He cited an article from Forbes magazine about the 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude that will Motivate You to Give Thanks Year-Round. Then he finished off his article with that most difficult of questions: “Are you living a thankful life today?”

It kind of ‘grate-d’ against my soul to read that question, rather than cause a gusher of grate-fulness to pour out of my heart. 

Now the problem is not with TJ, nor the article. It’s actually with my heart, with our hearts.  We are just not satisfied.  Not satisfied with life, with work … we might even admit we are not satisfied with God at times.  As Tim Chester put the question: “Do you want more of God? Do you want to enjoy him?  Or let’s put the question like this: do you like God?

So as I start, as we start 2019, a check of our hearts would be in order.  Here is a short text and one question to reflect on and get us started:

A soul that is capable of God can be filled with nothing else but God; nothing but God can fill a soul that is capable of God. Though a gracious heart knows that it is capable of God, and was made for God, carnal hearts think without reference to God. But a gracious heart, being enlarged to be capable of God, and enjoying somewhat of him, can be filling by nothing in the world; it must only be God himself. Therefore you will observe that whatever God may give to a gracious heart, a heart that is godly, unless he give himself it will not do.  A godly heart will not only have the mercy, but the God of that mercy as well; and then a little matter is enough in the world, so be it he has the God of the mercy which he enjoys.”

What ‘distracting, heart-consuming care’ keeps us from prizing again today our union with Christ and the work God is carrying out in our lives?

If you are interested in reading further: The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Jeremiah Burroughs.  It’s not an easy read, but well worth the effort as Burroughs speaks to the heart to motivate, not our pride.

Six characteristics of a team

Within the World Team Global community, we talk about the six (6) characteristics of an effective or fruitful team.  Stated simply, these characteristics are: common purpose, appropriate division of labor, accepted leadership, agreement on the plan, solid relationships, and good communication.

HumilitySomething struck me as I was reading through that list again recently.  All six are linked by one essential heart attitude or motivation.  Humility.

To agree to a common purpose and to share the workload means that we as team members will need to ‘give up’ something for the benefit of the group.  To stand behind accepted leadership, we must take our hands off the proverbial ‘steering wheel’ and allow ourselves to be led by another.  To agree to a joint plan means that we choose to stand behind the direction we as a group have taken.  And obviously, solid relationships and good communication can only occur on a team when each of us is willing to be transparent with others, acknowledging our mistakes, seeking forgiveness, and offering forgiveness to others.

Each characteristic seems to call for humility.

Humility though is often somewhat elusive to us.  No one has ever ‘explained’ how to go about growing in humility by certain action steps.  Maybe that is why it might be better to talk about ‘gospel humility’. It’s the humility that is the fruit of God’s work of driving the Gospel deeper and deeper into our hearts.  It’s not something we do, but something that is cultivated.  It’s about a heart that allows God’s Spirit to search us, pull us up short, and enflame our hearts with the overwhelming good news of the Gospel again and again!

So monocultural and multicultural teams can be fertile contexts wherein God works that gospel humility into our lives; where we learn the richness and depth of His love as we rub shoulders in team ministry with brothers and sisters who may not be like us but are committed to the same vision and calling.

A question on which to reflect: how has God used team members to further your understanding of and growth in grace?

Pride is insidious

Our struggle with pride often happens in the ‘small’ moments of life.  We don’t even see it coming, and then it surfaces to work to convince us how ‘good’ it feels to detour-sign-k-6718be right.

A ‘small’ moment like this one. I arrived in Melbourne last Saturday night around 23h00. I made my way quickly to the rental car place and in a matter of minutes was on my way.  “I’m doing really well.  I’ll get to Mitcham quickly,” I thought.  I got out on the freeway heading into the City and not more than two kilometers down the road, there were signs indicating that the freeway was closed.  “Now what I am going to do?” was my first thought. I decided to follow the detour signs placed ahead.

After more than twenty minutes of following those detour signs, I arrived back at the very place where I started following the signs!  That’s when I said to myself, “I’m never going to make it to Mitcham (where I was staying)!

So, here it was, 0h30 in the morning, most shops closed, and I wasn’t really sure in what direction was the City. I saw a 7-11 store open.  I pulled in and asked the young man at the counter how to get to the City.  He simply replied, “Just keep following that road.”  Now, I’m convinced this is the first response of many people in many countries at that time of the morning. “Just keep following that road.”

On the way out of the store, I saw an older couple getting out of their car, and I apporached them asked if they could help me.  The man looked right at me and said, “Where are you from?”  No words of help or advice, just ‘where are you from?’  When I told him that was a ‘hard’ question to answer, he laughed and said, “No problem, how can I help you?”  He proceeded to give me very explicit instructions to get the City and thanks to him I was able to get to where I needed to go.

I count at least three strikes of pride in that little event.  There was the ‘timing’ issue.  My efforts had led me to get out of baggage and customs and on my way in good time. I was happy with what I had done.  There was the ‘I’m going to figure this problem out myself’ issue.  Once the detour came up, I figured my sense of direction would get me where I needed to go.  I was confidant in myself.  There was the ‘accent’ issue.  The question of the man at the 7-11 store took me by surprise.  Why couldn’t he just accept me, instead of commenting on my American accent?

All little things you might say, but they all quickly add up to a focus on ME.  Pride is insidious.  Reflecting back on an event, even one seemingly ‘small’ in our minds, can help us to ferret out the work of pride which seeks to damage our heart and soul on a daily basis; and which seeks to keep us from our God.

CP 201

For the past year or so, I have been working through sets of notes from my seminary studies. Little by little, I’ve been storing my ‘hand written’ notes (that dates me!) by typing them up.  It’s been fun trying to decipher what I actually wrote at some points.  However, the greatest benefit has been the opportunity to review ideas and insights that I learned during tholearningse days and seeing their enduring importance to life and ministry.

A good number of us have some years of experience in the ‘work’ of church planting (CP) that God has called us.  It’s been a good while since our ‘learning’ or on the ground education time.  So, perhaps a ‘review’ of what we learned would serve to ‘fan the flame’ again of our passion for CP.  Such a review could serve as a good and needed reminder of those critical ideas and insights that are vital to life and ministry.

Over the next number of posts, I would like to review some ‘notes’ with you.  Let’s just say that we will be typing our notes together from CP 201.  Now as we pull that file (CP 201) from our filing cabinet, and look again at the syllabus of that advanced CP ‘course’, what would we discover was the overall objective?

‘Remembering’ is a biblical principle we find throughout the Scriptures.  “O LORD, I remember Your name in the night, And keep Your law.” (Psalm 119:55)  It will be fun to explore what we can learn together as we ‘remember’ what He has taught us.

No time to think

One of the things I enjoy about spending time away from work is being able to physically ‘take a break’ from all the technology that characterizes our lives in one way or another: responding to the constant e-mail traffic, writing another blog post, or just keeping up with what’s happening on the pages of my Facebook friends.

time to thinkGoing ‘off the grid’ allows one the time to step back to think, to read, and to reflect.  Times like this remind me of the need to regularly make space to think and not be so taken up with all the information traffic going on around me.

In a recent article in the New York Times, Kate Murphy notes: “You can’t solve or let go of problems if you don’t allow yourself time to think about them. It’s an imperative ignored by our culture, which values doing more than thinking and believes answers are in the palm of your hand rather than in your own head.

Let’s not make the mistake of saying that one (thinking or doing) is more important than the other.  Let’s not get caught up in setting one against the other because thinking and doing are interconnected; they each support and nourish the other.

Rather than telling ourselves to spend more time in introspection or to spend less time thinking and just do something, we ought to seek balance in our lives.

How often have I used the phrase: “I’m just super busy”?  How often have you used a similar phrase?  That should be a signal to us that we are ‘out of balance’ and in need of readjusting, realigning our lives so that thinking and doing work together to allow us to live our lives well for the Lord.

 

Reading the Bible as a ‘missional worker’

In his meeting with the two travelers on the road to Emmaus, Jesus “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [he] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”  (Luke 24:27)

Any worker who has a missional mindset or a missions heart reads the Bible through these “glasses”: knowing that Jesus is the main theme.  From Genesis to Revelation, the biblical text points to or speaks of the One who would come to reconcile us to God and who would entrust us with this ministry of proclaiming reconciliation to others.  It’s all about Him.Google Glass video user guide

The focus on this unifying theme is at the base of much oral storytelling of the Bible or progressive Bible study working from the Old to the New.  However, is it really true for us as missional workers?  Are we as enraptured by this truth as we are passionate to share it with others?

The image of the Exodus originally drew attention to the need for deliverance from physical slavery (Exodus 7:16), but Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration talks of His “exodus” (Luke 9:31) being the means by which He would provide deliverance from the spiritual bondage of sin.  This is the message our friends, our colleagues, our neighbors need to hear.

Yet, we need to hear it as well.  Our hearts need to be caught up again with the wonder of His all out effort to redeem us, to buy us back for Himself from our rebellion and turning away from Him.  A missional worker must draw his/her resources from this well.

Here’s a thought: take the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14) or the notion of the priesthood (Numbers 1:13) and write down how Christ and His work is exemplified as the truth of this event or idea is run through the entire Scriptures.  Then stop and give thanks to God for Christ’s work in this way and ask Him to apply it strongly to your life again today.

 

 

 

 

He was here first

I read an interesting article in the French evangelical journal, Théologie Evangélique, this past week.  The article presented the ministry of David Bogue who was the impetus behind a missionary training centre in the UK in the late 18th century.  Though he never served as a cross cultural worker, he was instrumental in the preparation and sending of numerous workers to many parts of the then known world.god_is_here

What particularly caught my attention was the fact that several workers from this school either came from Europe or left to serve as workers in Europe once their training was completed.  I have often looked upon Europe or other parts of the world as somewhat ‘untouched’ by the Gospel.  However, God has been ‘working this soil’ for quite some time.

He was already here building His Church in Europe (and elsewhere) long before we arrived in the late 80s.

Two takeaways come quickly to mind.  First, we should see our work in the larger context of His work, of His mission.  Doing so, will allow us to recognize that the success or fruit in our ministry does not ultimately depend on us.  Second, we need to read more history.  I was stunned by the fact that this British pastor, with limited resources, had a vision so much larger than many today, and saw the fulfillment of that vision.  To think that France, for one, was already being touched by the Gospel efforts of one man in the late 18th century should  encourage many of us in the further work of sowing now in the 21st century.

No matter where we are in the world, God was there before we ever got there.  He is still seeking out people.  The amazing truth is that He chooses to use us as part of the means to accomplish His missionary purpose.