There are times when we receive feedback from the mission field that is worth passing on to you. This is one that will give you a sense of how this ministry is impacting the Church in places where God has allowed us to work. It is truly exciting and rewarding!
“Your words always encourage me and I feel so motivated. I am indeed feeling so blessed to be part of your ministry. My life has completely changed and I am very much in love with the Word of God and very willing to share with others what the Lord has done for me. I want to tell you that my eyes have been enlightened to know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints (Ephesians 1:18).
The Lord is opening doors in Africa. I can see reaching forty percent of African countries by the year 2025. Believe me, the Lord is at work and with Him all things are possible. Yes, there are so many obstacles, but God is on our side (Psalm 118:6) and the battle is His. Brother, even locally, the manual (God’s Plan for His Church) is in demand. All I know is He who holds the ‘tea bag’ is doing his work in his vessels and that is us!”
This testimony reminds me of Paul’s letter to a young church that grew and spread the gospel in a very wide area. “We also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
Rejoice with us that God is working around the world in ways that glorify His name! Please pray with us that this work will spread, just as it did in the Book of Acts (2:41; 6:7; 12:24; 13:49; 19:20).
We will now look at an example that points to a church that was very poor, yet they gave out of “a severe test of affliction.” Paul uses the churches of Macedonia as an example to the prosperous Corinthian church. How could these poor churches give with “abundant joy” in their “extreme poverty”? We see the “how” in 2 Corinthians 8:5; “they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” We have witnessed this attitude in some who are motivated by the Lord because He is first in their lives.
This would be like Paul appealing to some poor countries like Bangladesh, India or Africa, etc... to be an example to the churches in Europe or the US. The Macedonians gave “beyond their means,” or, in other words, they gave by faith what they did not possess. The original word for “extreme” is “bathous” meaning to “an extreme degree” and “poverty” is “ptocheia” meaning “insufficient possessions, even destitution.” Their giving was probably beyond what any of us really know and can realize.
The key to this issue is NOT how much or how little anyone or any church may have. It is whether we give “first to the Lord”! Finding our sufficiency in Christ puts every other human need in the right perspective. In this way, poor churches and countries become a testimony to the more prosperous churches and countries because they are like “Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich” (8:9). Therefore, they reaped bountifully with overflowing gratitude and joy because they sowed bountifully (9:6)!
Jesus watched those giving in the temple and observed “many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And He called His disciples to Him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on”” (Mark 12:42–44).
We turn aside in this blog to address a problem that seems to be universal in the church – MONEY! It is not that there is a lack of money for doing the Lord’s work, it is that we have placed money on the same level of importance as Scripture and the Holy Spirit. Let me clarify that statement. Many believe that without money, the work of God cannot move forward. Let’s look at a couple of examples where money was not needed to do God’s work.
· “And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”” (Acts 3:4–6).
· “Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!” (Acts 8:18–20).
Notice that in both cases, the power of Jesus and receiving the Holy Spirit were without money. The main ingredient in doing God’s work is a vital relationship with the Lord and the Holy Spirit. Neither require money or possessions. They require the kind of relationship that sees our total sufficiency in Christ. Of course, God uses money, but it should never be the motive for doing the will of God nor the obstacle for not doing His work. It was never the reason or motive for Paul’s ministry, and it should never be ours.
We looked yesterday at four men who God spoke to directly and establish a relationship with them that caused their lives to be ON MISSION WITH GOD. All the disciples were personally called by Jesus “that they might be with Him and He might send them out to preach” (Mark 3:14). Inherent in His choosing them was a complete change of all their pursuits in life. “Immediately they left their nets and followed Him” (Matthew 4:20, 22; Mark 1:18, 20).
We know from the rest of the New Testament that Jesus was not against working (2 Thessalonians 3:10), but there is a commitment even in our vocational calling that puts the MISSION OF GOD as our highest priority and pursuit in life. That is why we emphasize the biblical principles that impact every area of our lives, marriages, families, churches, schools and work places. The call of God is not confined to one department of life.
We must conclude from the passage in Mark 3:14 that we will not experience being sent out into effective MISSION WITH GOD unless we are daily WITH HIM in our relationship. Just by watching the apostles, rulers and elders of the people “recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). That cannot happen from an occasional meeting with Him. It must be a consistent, intimate walk with Jesus that transforms our inner man.
It is very important for us to realize that God is the initiator of any key relationship that ends up being used in HIS MISSION. We make a big mistake if we talk about ourselves and the ministry we are involved in with the personal pronoun “I”. Notice in each of the following leaders how they were used by God in significant ways:
· Genesis 6:9-22 – God called Noah to build an ark and establish a covenant with him for the whole earth.
· Genesis 12:1-3 – God called Abram to make a great nation from his seed through a covenant.
· Exodus 3:1-12 – God called Moses to deliver His people Israel from bondage in Egypt and establish His worship through a covenant.
· 1 Samuel 16:11-13 – God anointed David and established an everlasting covenant and kingdom through him.
While there are many more we could list in the Old Testament, these are primary examples of God taking the initiative in selecting and calling persons into a key relationship that would fulfill God’s plan and purpose from before the foundation of the world. Though none of these men were perfect, they responded to the call of God and allowed Him to use them in their weakness to prove the power of God. God never chooses great vessels to manifest His purpose. He chooses frail, weak vessels that are willing to submit to the great power of a great God who has great plans.
If you see yourself as unworthy and unfit for God’s great plans, then you are the kind of person God will call if you are willing to submit. Listen for HIS call and be ready to answer.
As the years pass, those with a desire to glorify God by their life begin to think more and more about the legacy they will leave behind. That thought will influence what we do with our remaining years, energy and resources. Think about this question carefully.
Billy Graham went to be with his Lord and Master a few days ago. In one of the last interviews with this servant, he was asked what he wanted people to remember him for? He replied; “That I was faithful to the Gospel.” When asked what he would have done differently, he replied; “I would have prayed more and studied the Bible more than I did.”
This brings up conversations that Tim and I have often had regarding this ministry, New Foundations International. There is nothing more important to us, should the Lord take us home before He returns, than leaving behind a tool that points to Scripture and a memory of being faithful to biblical principles. These are principles that produce church planting movements and train indigenous leaders to strengthen, encourage and build strong existing churches that multiply. They must be self-sustaining, self-supporting, self-governing, and reproducing. Our goal through such movements is that every people group in the world be reached with the gospel because indigenous leaders are committed to God’s glory by following biblical models.
What legacy will you leave behind? What will you be known for as your highest priority?
Perhaps this is the most difficult part of serious Bible study. Thinking about how I will put into practice what the Holy Spirit is convicting me of through the Word is not easy. It means being willing for transformation. When that happens, you can be assured God will receive greater glory.
4 – APPLICATION – “LIVE IT” – Now what?
· Discover how the Bible works. (Application Example: Read Acts 8:36-38)
· Read Ezekiel 36:27 & Philippians 4:8-9 and pray the Holy Spirit will help you do it.
(Example) Application: How and when will you make these changes in your life, family and church?
Lord, right now I yield myself to the indwelling Spirit so He can help me discover and understand what your Word is saying to me. Lord, I submit myself to the Word of God; teach me, reprove me, correct me and train me in righteousness so I can use your Word to fully equip others. I also want to be careful to listen to others and to be more teachable. Then by faith I will live and teach with authority the sufficiency of Your Word to my family and church.
(Try It) Study Ezra 7:9-10 by using these 4 steps: 1 – Observation (Look at it), 2 - Meditation (Think about it), 3 – Discussion (Talk about it) and 4 – Application (Do it).
At this point in these four blogs, how have you changed your alone-time with God in His Word? Our hope is that the Spirit will ignite a new desire to gain much more from reading the Scriptures.
3 – DISCUSSION – “TALK ABOUT IT” - What do others say?
· Discover what others are saying. (Discussion Example: Read Acts 8:32-35)
· Read Romans 15:13-14 and pray the Holy Spirit will help you learn from others.
Discussion among individuals is the oldest and still one of the most powerful teaching tactics used to draw out ideas and challenge presumptions by asking and answering questions. Discussion was used by the Early Church (Acts 17:2; 17:17; 18:4; 18:19; 19:8-9; 24:25) to challenge each other’s life and ministry. Discuss what are the timeless and supra-cultural key principles in the passage? How is this relevant today? And what do you think God is saying to you, your family and church? This becomes the means by which you can put into action.
For example, ask questions and summarize your answers. Why do you think some people teach one thing yet live differently? Why do people think they must add something to the Word of God to completely train a man of God? How can we help others continue in the Word of God and not give up when faced with persecution and suffering?
(Example) Discuss your key principles and functions (Meditations) with others.
Discussion: Contrast these principles with your life, family and church experience today.
It does not require the Holy Spirit and obedience to just teach the Word. We cannot accept that the Bible alone is enough; it is too easy or simple, so we must add other teaching and philosophies to our teaching. By reading and doing the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit along with maintaining a commitment to a church family.
What changes do you need to make in your life, family and church here and now?
I need to make sure my conduct and my teaching agree. I must teach the Scriptures with all authority while recognizing the sufficiency of God’s Word in my life. Lord renew my confidence in being able to completely train and equip others by your Word alone.
Here is your second step in understand the Scriptures. This can be so rewarding. I am amazed how much God shows me in my alone-time with Him and His Word. Though I have studied the Scriptures for over fifty years, I am continually excited with deeper, fuller and richer understanding He gives.
2 – MEDITATION – “THINK ABOUT IT” – What does it mean?
· Discover what the Bible means. (Meditation Example: Read Acts 8:30; 2 Timothy 2:7)
· Read 1 Corinthians 2:9-13 and pray the Holy Spirit will help you understand it.
Meditating on Scripture helps you to understand its meaning. This is what we call interpretation. To interpret means to explain the meaning of what you have observed. One way to do this is to think about what the author intends the readers to understand from what is written. Understanding what the passage meant to the original author and readers helps you to understand its true message.
Another way to understand the meaning of the passage you’re reading is to compare it with other Scriptures that might deal with the same message.
(Example) Meditate: Based on these verses, write a summary of the key principles and functions that you observed from God’s Word that every person, family and church could follow at any time, in any culture.
This means that God’s Word is the very Word of God, breathed out by God. It is all that is needed to completely and fully train and equip a man of God by teaching, reproving, correcting and training him to live a righteous life. To reinforce and empower our teaching we must live a life that reflects what we teach. One needs to continue in what he has learned and has believed so others will follow and endure in persecutions and sufferings.
In the next four days, I will share a new section of our supplements to God’s Plan for His Church. We think this is so valuable for any student of the Scriptures that we are sharing it with you.
1 – OBSERVATION – “LOOK AT IT” - What does it say?
· Discover what the Bible says. (Observation Example: Read Acts 8:30)
· Read John 14:26 and pray the Holy Spirit will help you see it.
Observation is the basic key to understanding God’s Word; it is fixing your heart, mind and attention on a passage of Scripture or a verse and the context around that verse. Observation is spending time in looking for what is God saying, what is happening in this passage and what is God’s intended message for the hearers. It will be helpful to read the passage several times. Then in your own words write down your observations.
(Example) Read and observe 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (Also read and observe verses 10-17 to understand the context of verses 16 & 17). Write down some key observations of what Paul is saying about the Scripture.
In Paul’s final letter, he tells Timothy to follow his teaching and life because his teaching and life is based on Scripture which is breathed out by God. Thus, Paul says that all Scripture is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. Paul wants Timothy to know that Scripture is able to equip a man of God completely.
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