As the days go by, we feel obligated to bring you news of what God is doing through this ministry. Along with edifying the body of Christ and writing on biblical principles that should govern every believer, leader and church planter, we want you connected with God’s work around the world.
Myanmar is a great example of where we see God working in special ways. Randy has just left there and says, “It has been great with almost 80 people hungry for God’s Word. Over 95% of them are young people! May this next generation impact this country for Christ and even go beyond its borders with the gospel.” In recent days, they have asked that we help print 1,500 God’s Plan for His Disciples and 1,500 God’s Plan for His Church, because of the growing interest and hunger for being taught through the Word. If the Lord moves your heart to participate in this need, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are finding this heart for the Scripture in other parts of the world, but it is not as prevalent as we desire it to be. There is a growing movement of God in many places where believers are becoming dissatisfied with tradition and shallow religious practices, and in their place longing for a living relationship with the Lord. I encourage each of us to pray for this and actively pursue a closer walk with the Savior.
It does not take long for the independent spirit of man to become evident to all those around us. From little babies to old people, the quest for doing things ‘our way’ is seen in so many ways. That was introduced in the Garden of Eden when the serpent put a question in the mind of Eve as to whether the words of God were true (Genesis 3:1-5). This began an independent thinking in the mind of mankind, accepting the lie that they could make decisions on their own.
The very nature of sin is believing that we can do things without the approval of God and not suffer any consequences. This attitude brought death – eternal separation from God our Creator.
On the other hand, God provided a solution, and deliverance from mankind’s independent spirit by total dependence on the work of Jesus Christ His Son. This step of dependence begins a life of allowing God to direct all our steps. From the air we breath and use for worship, to every act of life and ministry, it must be a continual stream of reliance on God.
This includes becoming dependent on others. I will address this in a later blog, but I want to assure you that this subject is not easy for me. The older I get, the more I realize the value of being totally dependent on the Lord.
As Tim continued his visit at Managua, Nicaragua, he found individuals interested in doing a study of Scripture through God’s Plan for His Disciples (GPHD). Through this study, a pastor asked Tim to preach at local crusade. Here is his report of the last couple days.
“We had a powerful crusade tonight. They put up a tent for those that came and the city mayor of Managua was there and many others who did not know the Lord personally. I was asked to preach and share my testimony.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to present GPHD to several key pastors and spent the morning presenting both GPHD and GPHC to group of about 50 leaders. In the evening they held an outside meeting in the countryside with some farmers. Things are looking better. The pastor in whose house I'm staying started a one on one going through GPHD together with me at his request. He like many who are starved for the Word of God.
Please pray for continual encouragement in a place that desperately needs believers to return to the Scriptures as their authority and sufficiency.”
One of the main definitions of the word “authentic” is that something conforms to and correctly represents the original. It must include all the essential features and intentions of the original so that someone looking at the copy would think that it is the original. This makes it worthy of acceptance and inspires belief in what is stood for.
In Psalm 139:23-24, David makes a very important request of God. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” This request shows a wonderful openness in David’s heart to allow God to examine everything about him to make sure he conformed to the exact intent and purpose for which God made him.
The quest for authenticity begins in the heart. Often persons try to be accepted by good outward appearances, but that is the wrong place to begin. We must begin with the heart and motives, and then with our mind. Notice that David’s request is NOT for other people to examine him, but he invites God to “search” him. There are three things about this that we cannot overlook. First, is our trust in the Lord to do the searching. Second, we know that He will not overlook anything. Third, the process will lead to something in me that is far better; “the way everlasting!”
Are you willing for God to search you from the inside out? Though He may expose things that you wished were not there, you will be more thankful that they are removed and replaced with the Spirit’s work which is eternal.
This point by Charles Swindoll is perhaps the hardest for any of us. “Third, instead of seeking a place of power, be still and release.” Having been around ministers, church leaders, and well- known speakers for years, I am very aware of the envy, jealousy, and human ambitions that motivate many; especially younger men. Along with most positions comes a push for power that is ungodly and prideful.
There is a sad race to the top, and, as Chuck says, “the loneliest, most unfulfilled people…are at the top.” Another sad aspect of power grabbing in the Lord’s work is mishandling of money and the desire for wealth, the compromise of moral standards, integrity and righteous living.
BE STILL! If you really want to be effective in ministry and do the Lord’s work so that it is fruitful and yields abundant glory for the Lord, you must release your ambitions for human achievement and power for a greater purpose. Contentment will enter your soul when you become still before the Lord. He begins to fill your vision with His glory, NOT YOUR OWN, when you release selfish, myopic considerations that are only temporal and replace them with the eternal.
“As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness” (Psalm 17:15). ARE YOU SATISFIED WITH CHRIST?
Charles R. Swindoll gives us his second point from the life of Saul. “Second, instead of talking more, be quiet and reflect.” Words are everywhere! As the types of media multiply and become more available to almost everyone, it is hard to go anywhere and not have some information or noise be surrounding us and entering our minds.
David found that the most strengthening moments in his life were waiting on the Lord in silence (Psalm 62:1, 5). “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me” (131:2). It was an intentional move of David that expresses an attitude of dependence on the Lord (verse 1), and the mind of a learner.
This is what happened with Saul in Arabia. He met with the Lord who sorted out all the confusing things that happened in his previous life, putting them in the right perspective. “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7–8).
We will never gain this attitude of heart, mind and desire for Christ unless we purposely find the time and place of solitude with the Lord. Come back tomorrow for the third point.
In his book, “Paul – A Man of Grace and Grit,” Charles R. Swindoll points to three imperatives for those who serve the Lord and His people. “Radical change is essential if we are going to become deeper, more effective servants.”
“First, instead of speeding up, slow down and rethink.” After all the education Saul received at the feet of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3) and the dramatic conversion at Damascus (9:1-19), we might think that he was eager to use his skills in a new direction – preaching Jesus, the one he had vehemently persecuted. True, “he immediately…proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues” (9:20), the places familiar to him. But he then slipped away into Arabia where he took spiritual inventory alone with the Lord. It was necessary to rethink his motives that had driven him for years. That takes time.
Time spent in solitude with the Lord prepares us for challenges that lie ahead which only the Lord knows are coming. This wise counsel from Chuck has often encouraged me when I am slammed with unexpected pressure, disappointment and discouraging circumstances. Getting into my place of quietness with the Lord changes the way I see the events around me.
Come back tomorrow for the second imperative.
Most people like the crowds, attention and popularity, planning the next event and all the perks that go along with speaking and rubbing shoulders with people of human importance.
Not Saul. For the next three years after Barnabas introduced Saul to the Jerusalem church, he goes off the church radar. The only thing we know about those years is what Paul writes in his first letter; “I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus” (Galatians 1:17). We are not sure exactly where Saul went in this large desert area, but I believe that indicates he was alone.
It was in this time alone that Saul developed the ‘hidden life’ and disciplines of solitude, silence and obscurity. It became the key to his tremendous effectiveness in the ten years that followed.
Charles Ryrie says, “In Arabia, he was alone with God, thinking through the implications of his encounter with the risen Christ on the Damascus Road” (Ryrie Study Bible, NAS, 1978, pg. 1771.)
It could very well have been that Saul received his vision recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 during this time. It was not wasted time. Often, we look at events that ‘hinder’ getting on with ministry as ‘delays, or a waste of time.’ In this time of solitude, Saul learned about the real Saul (Romans 7:7-25) and the greatness of God’s love and grace (Galatians 1:15-16).
What would you do with a time away from people, activities and normal responsibilities? Would you want to learn deep lessons in quietness with the Lord? Would you consider a time of obscurity a benefit to your spiritual growth and ministry? How quickly would you complain about the restrictions and quietness? All this depends on how you value an encounter with Jesus.
Normally we don’t think of Saul (Paul) being discipled, but that is exactly what happened. Even the greatest of the Lord’s servants had to go through a phase of being mentored by someone else. It is true that the gospel was given directly to him by “revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12). Ananias, a disciple, discipled Saul immediately after his conversion (Acts 9:10-19).
In Acts 9, we notice that there were “disciples” in Damascus who immediately realized that Saul was in danger because “the Jews plotted to kill him” (9:23). He submitted himself to them ‘as a disciple.’ “Their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket” (9:24–25). We are seeing here a ‘two-way’ discipling work happening in Damascus. But there is more.
After escaping Damascus, Saul heads to Jerusalem. Saul was well known there as the ‘persecutor of the Way’ and “they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple” (9:26). Now, Barnabas enters the picture. He knew exactly what happened to Saul on the Damascus road and “how…he [Saul] had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus” (9:27).
In a real way, Barnabas discipled Saul and help him become accepted by the church in Jerusalem. Discipling is never about hierarchy, but how we help others to grow spiritually and become passionate about God’s purpose being worked out in and through us. A unique relationship developed between Barnabas and Saul forged by the Holy Spirit and sent out by Him at Antioch (13:2-3). Are you being discipled? Who are you discipling?
It is good for us to ask some questions about the life and ministry of Paul. Why was he so effective and focused on spreading the gospel from Antioch to Rome in about ten years? What events in his walk with the Lord after conversion, helped to shape his new life and helped make that tremendous change from Judaism to being a faithful follower of Jesus.
As passionate as Saul (the old Paul) was about persecuting the Church (Christ), he became very passionate about proclaiming the person he had persecuted. With such a dramatic change, some asked; “is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name [Jesus]? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests? (Acts 9:21). Saul turning his back on a life of religious pride and hatred against Christ and those who represented Him, to a life of devotion to Christ. A man like Saul who made a 180 degree change would make many people wonder whether it was real or just a mentally deranged state.
It was real! “Saul increased all the more in strength and confronted the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ [Anointed Messiah]. (9:22).
One of the proofs of our conversion is what we say to those we used to associate with. When conversion is not deeply rooted in Christ delivering us from sin and all our sins, and receiving God’s forgiving grace, we will not be able to say much about what has happened in us. The ‘confession with our mouth’ (Romans 10:9-10) will be difficult to make and not convey a real transformation God intends to make.
Do those who knew you before your conversion ask what made the change they see in your life?
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