In preparation for my preaching tomorrow, my heart is crying out to the Holy Spirit to work afresh, first in my heart and life, and also in those who will hear the Gospel presented from Paul’s letter to the Galatians. As I reviewed what led up to Paul writing this letter, I went back to Acts and read these words from Chapter 11:21.
“And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.” (Acts 11:21).
If the Lord’s hand is not on any preacher, if the Holy Spirit does not fill him, there will not be any result – no fruit that glorifies God. As I have often prayed for the expansion of the Gospel into the unreached peoples of the world, I also realize that I cannot manufacture or create the right conditions for anything to happen anywhere. These men in the Early Church were just simple men. What made them different was their submission to the Lord and the Holy Spirit.
“Those who were scattered because of the persecution” were not named, but “the hand of the Lord was with them!” Can we duplicate this? NO! It must come through ordinary people who are submitted to His hand. Put aside personal and denominational agendas; put away man-made methods and gimmicks. Have done with the flesh of man thinking he can accomplish God’s work. Reject glory from men and every tendency to seek the elevation through pride or comparison with what others do. Let us seek only the power of God, His glory and His work through us who are mere slaves of Christ.
Numerical growth is not the result of what we do; it is a divine work. DO NOT HINDER IT!
Let’s continue this journey through the Book of Acts and see what develops after Cornelius and those Gentiles with him received the Holy Spirit. As this took place “the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles” (Acts 10:45). There is a witness to what the Spirit had done.
There is a principle here we cannot overlook. God will always confirm His work as He did through the Holy Spirit in chapter 4:31. The circumcision were Jewish believers who were still holding to many of the old traditions they thought were necessary for the Church. What happened with Cornelius and those with him was a divine act, totally apart from man. Peter was compelled to present the gospel, but receiving it by faith was a divine work of regeneration and new birth (John 3:5; Titus 3:5). God confirmed their faith by the giving of the Holy Spirit.
Later, Peter returned to Jerusalem to report what had happened. He was immediately met with criticism and questions about what he had done in mixing with uncircumcised people. Peter simply recounts the story of what took place. He did not offer any doctrinal justification or explanation. So powerful was the witness in the Spirit’s actions that Peter says, “If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard these things, they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life”” (Acts 11:17–18).
When God is at work, neither we who present the gospel nor anyone else can stand in the way. Peter was a willing Apostle (messenger) of the message and God did the rest. God will work in those He wants to hear if we are willing apostles – messengers of God’s grace. Just make sure you do not stand in God’s way when He begins a work
As I prepared for a preaching series on Paul’s letter to the Galatians, my mind traveled back to the inspiration of this letter. Almost eleven years before he wrote this letter, two men had visions in separate places that were intended to bring them together for an event that would change both of their lives, and the whole Church, forever. Let me explain.
The first vision happened “At Caesarea [with] a man named Cornelius…a devout man who feared God with all his household…he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, Cornelius…your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God” (Acts 10:1–4).
About the same time, Peter was in Joppa spending some time in prayer. In his vision he “saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” (10:11–16). This prepared Peter for what he was about to experience as he presented the Gospel to a Gentile and his household. “While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word” (10:44).
For the next ten years, the Church which had been Jewish in culture became a Jewish/Gentile Church. The Holy Spirit affirmed that Jesus Christ “reconciled us both to God in one body through the cross…for through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:16, 18). It is very important for us to consider what the Spirit was doing through Peter and Cornelius. He was pointing to the effective work of Christ in bringing together from every people group around the world those who would form the Church, “a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (2:22).
This should challenge our thinking regarding people we have never met. Do we regard them as Peter did the creatures in that sheet, or do we see them as vessels of God’s grace He wants to fill?
Over the years we have been training church planters, pastors and leaders, we have continually kept in mind the principle of leaving behind us faithful Timothys “who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). These Timothys must be indigenous leaders who can pass on more effectively than we can what they are learning from Scripture.
One such leader has translated God’s Plan for His Church (GPHC) into the Hmong and Dao languages and with his team of Timothys has expanded the training among Hmong and Dao people groups. This is on the border of China where most of the unreached people are located. GPHC provides them with a church planting model that is not only biblical, but it can truly reach people groups for Christ without the cost of buildings, degrees and even money. Among the Hmong and Dao, training is often slow, but effective. Those who seem to have the most difficulty learning are the ones who are most effective and fruitful in planting churches.
Paul said of people like this that “the word of the Lord sounded forth from” them because their “faith in God has gone forth everywhere” (1 Thessalonians 1:8). What joy and thanksgiving this gives us! Please rejoice with us in this news as we praise God for His faithfulness. Since there are hundreds more people groups to reach, we ask that you pray with us that this work might expand even more rapidly until the Lord comes.
We at New Foundations International think it is very important that we keep you informed of what God is doing through this ministry around the world. Some of our training events provide great joy and news worthy reports, while others make us fall back on our knees in dependent prayer for God to work where it seems the soil is hard. I want to bring you a good report from Africa.
An Antioch Model Church continues to expand throughout Africa; a model that is capable of reaching the unreached North African nations (people groups). In one of these nations, young Timothys are teaching God’s Plan for His Church and they are on Project B, Identifying Accelerators and Inhibitors. This is not an easy assignment because it forces the student to look at all the forms they use for doing ministry through the lens of Scripture and then determine whether that form will accelerate (rapidly expand) the work of God or inhibit (hinder) His work.
Their hunger for God’s Word and willingness to apply it by the Holy Spirit’s power to the Church in Africa has freed them from traditions that hinder and which might not be biblical. For us, this is very exciting to watch. It is rare that we find this attitude here in the West. In the few instances where God is breaking through tradition and reestablishing individuals and churches on a biblical foundation, things are happening that we have never seen before. All we have done is plant the seed, God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit does the transforming.
Perhaps God is stirring your heart through a testimony like this to want this movement of God in your life and church. If so, don’t let this moment go by without asking the Spirit to rekindle His fire in you. You might feel alone in this pursuit, but you’re not. God is going to fulfill every promise He has made and He will use the few, the dedicated, the humble, and the faithful. If you are interested in knowing more, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Time and time again, Scripture puts a heart-searching test to how we do things. There are so many examples I could draw from to give an example, but I will draw from two that make the point.
Jesus told His disciples that “when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account, rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12). Notice that the persecution is because we are standing in the place of Jesus in this world as His representative. When that is true and persecution comes against us in some form, we can “rejoice and be glad” because there is a great reward for correctly representing Him.
In situations like this, the persecutor may come against us for a short time and then leave. On the other hand, we may be in a difficult place that is long-term and there seems to be no end to the “unjust” treatment. One of these situations may come from the employers/masters we work for. In these circumstances Peter exhorts us as “servants, be subject…with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly” (1 Peter 2:18-19). In the same vane, Paul reminds us to “obey your earthly masters…with a sincere heart, as you would Christ…doing the will of God from the heart” (Ephesians 6:5-6).
Often we fail to remember in the moment of trial who we are representing, because we are more focused on ourselves rather than what others will see of Christ through our behavior. We can only wear HIS character on the outside if it is firmly rooted on the inside.
We have been looking at examples of persons who were obedient ONLY to a certain point. In essence they rejected the authority of Scripture and did not follow Jesus or the apostles as they should. Yet, there were the Roman believers who “become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed” (Romans 6:17). They are commended by Paul.
When Paul discovered Timothy at Lystra and heard how “he was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium, Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him” (Acts 16:1-3). There was a spiritual father/son relationship between these two men that God used to become a model in the Church for developing faithful leadership.
When we read Paul’s last letter, which was written to Timothy, he says; “You…have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings” (2 Timothy 3:10-11). That word “followed” means “to make an extensive effort to trace, carefully investigate and verify all the details.” From this list we can see that there was nothing about Paul’s life that Timothy did not know and learn from. Paul further presses the point in verses 14-15; “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed…you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to make you wise for salvation.” These statements leave us with no doubt or question that Timothy was a faithful servant who obeyed the teaching.
There was a ministry that Timothy had to fulfill after Paul was executed (4:5). It would require this degree of faithfulness that Paul confirms. The question is whether we are committed to this degree? We will never produce other faithful Timothys unless we have risen to a level of dedication and commitment we see in Timothy, Paul’s spiritual son. Are you accepting a lower standard? What you pass on to others will be based on what they see in you, not just what you say.
Anyone who has a passion to disciple others with God’s Word knows how disappointing it is to pour your time, energy and soul into someone only to watch them revert back to their old way of life. Jesus experienced this (John 6:60-66). Paul experienced this (2 Timothy 1:15; 4:10). John had a similar encounter (3 John 9).
We must not allow those who say they agree with the authority of God’s Word and then go their own way to discourage us. As a ministry, we have determined to work where God is at work and join Him. If God is truly working in hearts to accept the truth and authority of His Word, there will also be a hunger to understand its application to life and ministry, and then obey it.
Though Paul had not visited the young church in Rome yet, he knew God the Spirit was working in them. Look at the excitement he has for their progress; “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed” (Romans 6:17). We call that “transformation” and when we see it taking place in anyone, it gives cause for great thanksgiving to God for His faithful work.
I was speaking with a “Timothy” in another part of the USA a few days ago. He was asking for some more wisdom from Scripture that would accelerate his passion to serve the Lord. He works as a carpenter, is married with two children, and wants to use his work skills to go from place to place, earning a living and introducing God’s Plan for His Church to as many as possible. He is completely out of debt and continually seeks the Lord to refine his thinking to be in line with Scripture. He is an example of what Paul said to the Romans; they “become obedient from the heart.” They did not question whether a biblical principle would work. THEY OBEYED!
Some of the most penetrating teachings of Jesus come in the form of questions. Luke renders this portion of The Sermon on the Mount different than Matthew’s (7:21-23), but Luke is making us think carefully about how we respond to Jesus’ teaching. ““Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46). Was Jesus’ teaching just good literature as many say, or an ideal way of living in this world, or, does it speak to our hearts with the authority that it really has.
God took this same approach with Israel through the prophet Malachi (1:6), the last book written in the Old Testament.
· “If then I am a father, where is my honor?”
· “If I am a master, where is my fear?”
God’s questions through the prophet Malachi and the questions Jesus asked are intended to make us examine ourselves. Do we give ‘lip service’ to the Scriptures and the outward appearance that we are in agreement, but inwardly and through our actions we deny their authority. The principle of being a disciple means that we obey what our Lord and Teacher has told us to do (John 13:13). Obedience was a prime principle for being a disciple (Matthew 28:20). To call Jesus “Lord” and then not obey His teaching and the Scriptures He has inspired is evidence that our love for Him is not genuine. “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word” (John 14:23).
If we think that this test is too severe, remember how Jesus tested Peter in John 21:15-19. The proof of genuine love for the Lord is that we “follow” Him! That word refers to a close walk in His footsteps. Is the Lord putting your ‘profession’ to the test? As Luke 6:47-49 shows, your obedience or lack of obedience will show what your foundation is, rock or sand. Are you passing or failing the test?
“It has been a fruitful time as this is our third visit between Randy, Tim, and now me. We are so excited to announce, Lord willing, that 5 brothers will be graduating in October from God’s Plan for His Church. This is an unbelievable work of the Spirit in the lives of these brothers considering where they were on Tim’s visit back in November of 2017. What encouraged me the most is that we have 3 Burmese brothers who are going through the manual and 1 that will be graduating.
The Burmese people are generally identified as being Buddhist and therefore an unreached people group. This makes it incredible to have 3 Burmese brothers going through a course in Church Planting! Please be praying for these three. It is clear that God has a plan for this people group and it could very well be that they will be the key leaders He will use to accomplish His purpose.
On June 17th, I preached twice at the same building where we held the GPHC training. It doubles
as an orphanage, training facility, and building for the orphans and others to meet together on Sunday’s. What an opportunity to deliver God’s word on Father’s Day to orphans! Please pray for God to use His Word as we know He will. Thank you to everyone for allowing me to be here and your partnership in the Gospel.” (Reported by Jonathan)
“I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.” (John 14:18). What a promise!
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