One of the most important lessons in both NFI training books is “How to Study the Bible.” We are learning from many we train that no one has ever helped them in a simple method that gives the reader ability to gain far more than just reading a few verses of Scripture. I will share this practical method tomorrow, but for this blog, I want to direct your attention to a man who set his heart to study the Word of God and then teach others its truth.
“For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel” (Ezra 7:10). We are told that Ezra came up from Babylon as “a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the Lord God of Israel had given…for the hand of the Lord his God was on him” (7:6; also verse 9).
We immediately notice that there is nothing lazy about this man. He “set his heart” is a purposeful and determined objective of the mind and will. There was nothing casual about the way Ezra conducted his life. In addition to a focused attitude toward the Law of the Lord, Ezra determined to put into practice what he learned from God’s Word. James has the same decisiveness when he writes; “Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). By putting into practice what we learn from Scripture, we become examples for others to follow.
One more point from Ezra; “teach” others what we know to be true. God has placed us where we are to teach others the principles of God’s Word so they will also follow as obedient disciples. Is this the attitude of your heart?
Yesterday we looked at the example of Priscilla and Aquila who took Apollos “aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” (Acts 18:26). What was the result of their instinctive passion to disciple others, even a well taught Christian? Was this really necessary and would it make any difference in the ministry of this devoted man?
“And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus” (Acts 18:27–28).
We are not sure why Apollos needed to be encouraged to cross over into Achaia, but it was evident to others that he had gained a greater understanding of the Scriptures through Priscilla and Aquila. He became intentional about taking what he learned and used it to “greatly help those who… believed.” This was in the environment of false teaching, which is no different today.
We desperately need this type of discipling today. Bible Colleges and Seminaries may have their place, but many do not have this degree of one-on-one mentoring in the ministry. To “powerfully refute” false teaching, persons must have a solid understanding and belief in the authority of Scripture. In the same letter that Paul tells Timothy to take what he had learned from Paul and “entrust [it] to faithful me who will be able to teach others also,” he also said “all Scripture is breathed out by God;” it has authority over life and ministry (2 Timothy 2:2; 3:16).
If you would be powerful in ministry, you must be willing to be discipled and accept the absolute authority of Scripture.
I began thinking about an email received from a student in Myanmar in which she said that her church had chosen “The Year of Restoration” as the motto for 2019. Let’s think about this.
In both of our training books, we start with the invitation to “RETURN to the Authority and Sufficiency of SCRIPTURES.” This is absolutely key in order that new disciples and existing disciples become established and strong in faith and practice. By using this principle in our churches, they are able to stand on their own in a world of false doctrine and worldly pursuits.
Why should we disciple believers who have been on the Christian road for a long time? We may fully agree that new believers need discipling, but why seasoned saints? Remember Apollos? “He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John…but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:24-25).
Restoring us back to the authority of Scripture promotes growth in the grace of Christ and more effective and fruitful disciples. Let each of us consider 2019 “The Year of Restoration” personally and in our churches.
There are times when we wonder what will be the fruit of our labors. As training take place, something is happening in places and with people we did not expect. One of the tests we have put to our work for persons who go through God’s Plan for His Disciples training, and God’s Plan for His Church, is whether God has created in them a hunger for His Word more than money or anything else. If money is their motive, they will look to us for more of the same. If God’s Word is what they want, they will ask for more training to understand it better without money as part of it.
Last Fall, we did an introduction in a church in Yangon, Myanmar. Just a week ago, they started the Burmese GPHD study in the evening. Tim spoke in this church the last time he was in Yangon. This is a note and picture a young lady sent via messenger, “Pastor, today we started an adult Bible Study and around 30 people showed up. Praise the Lord!” They have requested more books.
This is happening in the USA as well. One church in North Carolina requested 40 GPHD books for a study they started Sunday evening. After their first meeting, others wanted to join the study and they requested 20 more books. If this is any indication of what God is doing, it is wonderful to see Him work.
Paul felt the same way about the Corinthian believers. Though he addressed some very difficult issues, he said, “You show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:3). I trust you and your church are developing this same hunger.
As I ponder the last 24 hours, and even the last week, I am amazed at how much God is doing in this ministry. As Tim concluded the SEANET Conference in Thailand, news of contacts, invitations and opportunities streamed into my computer faster than I could read or answer them. Some are direct answers to our prayers, others are not.
Could God be bringing together persons and resources that would allow us to have a “training center” in S. E. Asia that is accessible to ‘closed nations’ and yet be cost effective? Is God bringing the right people together who share our vision and passion and through them setting us free from worry about how such a small staff can handle the rising demands? What about the new doors of opportunity; Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and the Philippines? Each one must be prayed for carefully with genuine interest in knowing how God is going to direct our steps.
Paul was careful in his prayer life and in the way he taught others to pray. “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2). The phrase “continue steadfastly” means there should be an “intense devotion” in the way we pray, not a causal attitude. To be “watchful” means there is “a continuous readiness and alertness to learn” as we pray. This never allows us to pray as if we know answers to our requests before waiting on God. It means we pray expecting God to teach us something about what we are praying for.
That is how we have learned to pray for events, plans and opportunities in this ministry. When God answers, it becomes clear that His way is perfect and the results are far greater and better than our feeble expectations. Are you watching in your prayers?
As Tim heads to Vietnam in about a week, I want to give you a short glimpse into what God is doing there. The use of God’s Plan for His Disciples and God’s Plan for His Church has been amazing! Over the last few years, 70 groups have studied through God's Plan for His Church, and this has sprung from the passion of one “Timothy” who caught the vision of what God could do through taking others back to Scripture. AMAZING!!! This work is all self-sustaining and indigenous--truly unbelievable and rare in our day; something only God can do!
This makes all the years of praying and labor worthwhile, and gives us hope and encouragement to press on until the task is done. What makes this training so important is that it is reproducible in any culture, at any time, and can go on without us from the West. Not only has our training material been translated into Vietnamese and Hmong, but is also being translated into Duo. These are major languages in Vietnam and will equip believers, pastors and church leaders for greater expansion of the gospel.
If this could be started in every country, Matthew 24:14 would soon be fulfilled and the world would be turned upside down as they did in Acts 17:6 for our Savior. Not only will this complete the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), but also prepare the Church for the return of our King of kings to earth (Revelation 19:7). Thank you for standing with us in prayer and investment into ministries like this. God will be glorified through abundant fruit.
Put your imagination hat on for a moment. What if you were standing before a world map on the floor with very tiny lights in every part of the world. Some were lighting up and others were not. Those that are lit represent places where God is working and the gospel is spreading with the speed of light. Those lights that are dark is where God is not working – there is no light of the gospel and no one there to share that light. How would you feel in your heart about those dark places?
I have held this picture in my mind after my partner shared a dream he had of what God is doing around the world. Often my eyes fill with tears, for two reasons. One reason is the dark areas of the globe. Because of limitations God has placed on me, I can’t “GO”. Can you “GO” in my place?
Yet, I often have tears of joy. I see little lights getting brighter and a few just turning on. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10–11).
Less than a year ago, we launched into a project of writing God’s Plan for His Disciples that takes believers back to Scripture to anchor their faith in the authority of God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit. In less than a year, this tool has spread the Good News of the Gospel to new and existing believers in Vietnam, China, Ecuador, Nigeria, Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia. You can be part of this movement of God and see lights turn on in dark places!
When the door closed for us in China, God opened another in Tel Aviv to work through God’s Plan for His Disciples (GPHD) and God’s Plan for His Church (GPHC) with Chinese brothers and sisters from there. We were also able to meet with a Chinese House Church and a traditional Church, making many connections with various Chinese leaders who were involved with several universities as students and teachers along with some migrant workers. They are working through GPHD and Lord willing, Tim plans on a follow-up meeting with them in Israel in August.
It is always so encouraging to see them grasp and learn God's Word. From this meeting, we are connecting with several more Chinese leaders in Taiwan. What a joy to work with the Chinese who are so hungry for the Word and desire to serve and go on mission without any material support because they love Jesus. This is so refreshing!
Paul was not discouraged by closed doors. He and Silas planned traveling to Bithynia to preach the gospel, “but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them” (Acts 16:7). Rather than being disheartened, they pushed on in a different direction. Then it happened; “A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:9–10).
God is never stopped by the schemes of man. If we let Him, He will redirect us into the path that He has already provided so His work will continue – often with better results than we had planned.
This week Tim is attending a conference that addresses the challenging issues of evangelizing in a Buddhist context. How important is it that the gospel of Jesus Christ reaches these people? Here are a few facts that should stir our hearts toward great passion for evangelizing these people.
· Buddhist population: 620,000,000
· 575 Buddhist people groups
· 7 of these groups have a population over 10,000,000
· 439 of the people groups are unreached
I ask that you use the next few days to pray for Tim and those who attend this conference, that they see more clearly the urgent need of using biblical methods to reach these people groups.
More will be reported on this conference at the end of the week as it becomes available. Below is a map showing the places where Buddhist populations are the highest.
As we have examined John 15, we have observed how important it is to “abide in the vine,” the Lord Jesus. Without actively ‘remaining in Him,’ we will be unfruitful and God the Father will not receive glory through us. We also looked at the consequences of not abiding in Christ.
Now we come to another dimension of this relationship – LOVE! “As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Abide in My love” (15:9). Here we see that Jesus is equating the way God loves Jesus His Son as being exactly the same way that Jesus has loved us. How are we to know the reality of this love? We get a deeper insight through the Lord’s prayer in John 17:26; “I made known to them Your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which You have loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26). Think about this for a moment. Jesus affirms that the Father’s love for Jesus is the same love Jesus has for us and it should be IN US!
Now, combine that principle with Jesus’ instructions in chapter 15 that we are to abide in that love that began with God the Father. What difference would that love make in our attitude toward maintaining a strong relationship with Jesus in our life and ministry? Would we be more concerned about “ABIDING” in Jesus because the Spirit has given us to know His love, its divine quality, and its motivating power? Anything done out of pure love has a far greater impact than doing anything out of duty. What is your motivation?
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