NFI MINISTRY UPDATE
Knowing that many of you follow this ministry, I wanted to give a short update. Though we have seen many changes in the last month, and training trips have been canceled, there are other things happening that cause excitement. One of the most important items is the printing of our Third Edition of God’s Plan for His Disciples. We have just received and approved the proof from the printer. Since their printing load is light, they expect to go ahead with production immediately.
Again, we are amazed. One of our “Timothys” in S. E. Asia told us this week that with the restriction in travel, they have turned to Facebook to continue their training. Another “Timothy” in Myanmar carried on the training when Randy had to suddenly leave and return home because of travel restrictions. A brother in Malawi, Africa found our website and is very excited about our training material. Though he wanted to go through our training, conditions have stopped us from making any arrangements, but this did not stop him from diving into translating GPHD into Chichewa.
These are positive examples that God is NEVER STOPPED in His work. He is only asking us to join Him in prayer and encouragement with those He is using. In Matthew 21:28-32, Jesus gives the parable of two sons whose father asked to go and work in the vineyard. One said he would go and didn’t. The other said “’I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went” (29). Even if we face doubts and challenges, let us do all we can to “GO” into the harvest for our Lord. You will never see the fruitful harvest until you get involved in some way.
ARE YOU DOING THIS?
They were young in the faith. Their church had only been planted in the early part of AD 51. By the end of that year, doubts had been also planted in their minds and rumors ran through the church that the Lord had come, leaving them behind. Paul could not see these young believers get derailed in their faith or discouraged. So, he wrote them a letter of assurance.
Paul starts by reminding them of how the gospel was received “in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:6). He reminded them of his own labor among them “like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (2:7). When Paul could not leave where he was and go to Thessalonica, he sent Timothy to get a first hand report (3:1-2), who brought back an encouraging report. He followed this report with words about the coming of the Lord (chapter 4) and what the “day of the Lord” would look like (chapter 5).
As a final plea, Paul says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (5:11).
This is what we must be doing. The trials of today require that we use whatever means we can and reach out to the body of Christ with words that encourage and build up.
LEARNING A SECRET
I must admit, “contentment” is not an easy lesson to learn. It seems to take a lifetime of going through various situations that try us before we learn what Paul is talking about in Philippians 4:11.
“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” That word “content” (autarkēs) is made up of two words in Greek, “auto” and “self-rule.” This combined idea is part of Paul’s description of the fruit the Spirit produces in us; “self-control.” In other words, it is the Spirit’s work in us that helps us learn to be content
Paul continues his exhortation in Philippians 4 and adds, “In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (4:12). This is not natural to any of us, but is gain through the indwelling Spirit as we allow Him to teach us.
The instructions to Timothy were; “godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1 Timothy 6:6–8). We do not gain unless we are content.
Perhaps the present trial is forcing us to learn this lesson in a new way. If we learn this, the Spirit will make it an “automatic” function of “self-rule” so that as circumstances change and our lives are required to adjust to new situations, we will be content with what the Lord gives us.
A VERY HEAVY WEIGHT
“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad” (Proverbs 12:25).
Sadly, we often think that if we worry about a problem, we will eventually find a solution. In reality, worry or anxiety actually adds to the weight of the problem and we make our situation even more difficult. Solomon was right; “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down.”
David, Solomon’s father, learned that it is better to “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22). The word “cast” means to “throw, fling or hurl” your “burden” or “anxiety” away from yourself onto someone who is far more qualified to deal with it and carry its weight for you. He will also give you stability.
Jesus gave us this personal invitation; “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). In verse 29, Jesus goes on to say; “learn from Me.” Naturally we do not cast our burdens on the Lord because we have an attitude that we are able to carry weighty matters on our own. Learning from the Lord means that I partner with Him in whatever circumstances He places us in or allows us to go through. When we do, Jesus guarantees “rest” and a “light” burden.
Will you accept His invitation?
DO NOT LOSE HEART
As we hear of more cases of the Covid-19 here in many parts of the world, and how it is affecting family members and friends, our minds go to the Scriptures for comfort, wisdom and stability. Yesterday I pointed us to the only sure place of peace in these times – in the Lord.
I thought of J. Oswald Sanders and his book, Enjoying Intimacy with God. In the fifteenth chapter, Intimacy Prevents Discouragement, Sanders points to Paul’s attitude that flowed out of his close walk with the Lord.
If Paul can be so positive in circumstances that were far more difficult than ours, so can we. Sanders reminds us that “we lose heart when we lose the sense of wonder at the surpassing superiority of the ministry entrusted to us. “Our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit” (3:5-6; page 130).
Be sure to strengthen your heart through getting close to the source of courage and comfort.
THE PLACE OF PEACE
As in other times of uncertainty, people are asking questions about whether the events surrounding COVID-19 are a sign that we are at or near the end of time. These questions are not new. Jesus was asked similar questions, even by His disciples.
“As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?”” (Matthew 24:3). Jesus followed this question with a warning; “See that no one leads you astray” (24:4). The tool of the Deceiver (Satan) is to distract us from the real purpose of why we are left here.
Part of the deception is diverting our attention to persons who claim to be “Christ” in order to “lead many astray” (24:5). These are called “false teachers…who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them” (2 Peter 2:1). The attempt is to cause fear and distrust so we look for security outside the person of Jesus. Remember His words; “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world”” (John 16:33).
Our greatest stability is in the person of Christ. In sending the Holy Spirit to be here in His absence, Jesus is drawing each of us into a closer walk with Him so we know this peace. Out of that place of peace, we can tell others where to find peace. I pray the Spirit will direct your heart into this inner circle with the Lord so He will send you out with the message of peace – “Be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
DO YOU FEEL HIS COMPASSION?
“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:35–36).
In these days, it is not hard to feel the frustration, fear, anxiety, loss of hope and pain many are experiencing and expressing. No one felt these conditions more than Jesus did. As He walked through His own creation, He healed, comforted, and supplied food for many. But these conditions needed something far better and more powerful than medicine and stopping disease.
These persons needed “the gospel of the kingdom.” It’s the Good News of the King that has provided a way into His kingdom through His death, burial, resurrection and ascension. While the material and physical things help our temporal needs for a time, they do not go beyond death. The gospel of Jesus Christ offers eternal life in a new heaven where righteousness reigns.
Have you offered that Gospel, that Good New to anyone today? This is true compassion of the highest order! When you do, you will be a real ambassador of the Good Shepherd (John 10:11; 2 Corinthians 5:20).
ON THE SPOT HELP
Have you ever been in a situation when you wanted HELP immediately? As some friends and relatives come in contact with persons who have COVID-19, there is a feeling of needing help for several reasons. We don’t know the outcome of that moment and we may not know where to turn for the right kind of medical care. We need to know the correct response in these moments.
There was a Levitical family in the Old Testament known as Korah. They rose up in rebellion against Moses causing God to instantly punish them with death. However, a few members of this family survived, and through the years learned very important lessons about God’s character.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah” (Psalm 46:1–3).
Jeremiah heard God say to him, ““Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away?” (23:23). These are comments from persons who really knew God as being very near, especially in times of trouble.
There is nothing greater I could do for you than to encourage you to know Him in this personal way. Both Jeremiah and the Sons of Korah knew God intimately. Actually, He is right there with you and wants to establish a strong relationship with you so that even if trouble comes into your life, you will know God as your “refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
BOLDNESS IN A DAY OF TROUBLE
So many times, I thank the Lord for the encouragement of Scripture. Paul felt this way too. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). Though it would be a few years before he would see these believers face-to-face, Paul wanted to provide them with the real source of encouragement – God’s Word.
Reports from many parts of the world keep coming into my computer, some heartbreaking and others tell of great boldness in sharing the gospel of Jesus with those around them. We just learned that a friend of ours now has the Covid-19 virus, and now possibly his daughter. Our hearts go out to them and we again take a moment to pray for God’s mercy. At the same time, we hear that many in Wuhan are boldly sharing the gospel, and finding persons who are very receptive. How did the Early Church handle times like this?
This takes me back to Acts 4. They were under the threat of prison for preaching the gospel about Jesus which drove the believers to pray; “grant to your servants [the disciples] to continue to speak Your word with all boldness” (4:29). If you will pray like that, I can tell you what will be the result; “with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and great grace was upon them all” (4:33).
In these uncertain times, we must accept that circumstances may be very difficult for some time, but they DO NOT change the power of God. Let’s draw on that power to be His witnesses to others with boldness, love and grace.
A SOBERING THOUGHT
Why would I turn to such a sobering passage of Scripture at a time like this? Yes, I desire to comfort, encourage, and strengthen each person who visits this website. I realize there is a great need for that in these days. At the same time, the enemy is taking advantage of our isolation and social distancing to weaken the minds and hearts of some. For them and you, I cannot keep silent.
Jesus was aware of dangers from thinking that we are exempt from the current crisis. He addressed those who only pointed their finger at others who died in a crisis. “And He answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish”” (Luke 13:2–5).
In any crisis, big or small, this same danger exists. Instead of finger pointing, we should be asking the question, ‘what is the Lord saying to me?’ Are we holding back in some area of our walk with the Lord? Do we give Jesus control of only certain parts of our life, but the other parts we keep tightly under our control?
We often point to circumstances as an excuse for not being fully surrendered to Jesus. Physical limitations and hardships are not the problem. It’s the barriers in our hearts that we have not repented of. They can only be removed by humble repentance.
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