“Two masters I cannot serve, and therefore I simply choose the Lord” (Anthony Norris Groves).
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24).
This Scripture had a significant impact on Anthony Norris Groves in making his decision to carry the gospel to the Islamic world. It was 1829 when he headed to Baghdad, believing that God had sent him there. With no mission board behind him, no regular salary, no ordination or church denomination, no knowledge of the language or culture, Groves went on the promises of God.
Groves had a heart taught to love everyone he met, regardless of their background, and a vision to take the promises of God and His love personally to those who knew nothing of such love.
You may not have read or heard of Groves, but he had significant influence on men and women like Watchman Nee, George Müller, Hudson Taylor, C. T. Studd, Jim Elliot, Amy Carmichael, and many others. I will share a bit of his life in the days ahead. It should inspire us to consider carefully who we are serving. Is the Lord your ONLY Master?
Father of Faith Missions – The Life and Times of Anthony Norris Groves, Robert Bernard Dann, Authentic Media, 2004.
The days we live in are testing the depth of our faith. There seems to be a rise in persecution against Christians everywhere, though it is experienced in differing forms. Anti-Christian governments are taking a hard line in places to the point of closing churches, putting pastors and Christian leaders in prison and placing more restrictions on meeting and witnessing. More radical groups are burning churches and killing believers. False accusations are very common.
Our natural tendency is to avoid such things and default to a preservation mode. While each of us are tested in this subject in different ways, there is a principle I do not want us to forget; love and prayer. I have been deeply challenged lately with how shallow my prayer life is. Jesus taught His disciples principles that will help us in our day with these trials, and He began with prayer.
We must love our neighbor, but also “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28). In the midst of unjust treatment, these instructions tend to escape from our memory. We find reasons not to follow Jesus’ teachings because it is hard when we are face to face with an enemy or persecutor. Yet, their witness is powerful!
How do we find strength and internal motivation to love, do good, bless and pray for them? Jesus said; “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). “Take heart, I have overcome the world” (16:33). Imitate His example. He came to love (3:16). If you are struggling to pray for someone who has treated you unfairly, stop and read Luke 23:34; “Father, forgive them.”
God has opened a door for us to visit a “closed” country in South East Asia next month. While we go there to train church leaders, one of their greatest needs is BIBLES. Over the years, persecution has driven out many church leaders and those who remained have suffered much. Preaching the Gospel is often done at the risk of imprisonment, and even death. I have a Bible cover made by one of wives who lost her husband this way. It is a precious reminder of the Bible’s value.
This is a time that the church in the West must rally around this need. We invite you to join us in providing Bibles for those who are hungry for the Word of God. Remember the words of Jesus, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). They may be very short in the supply of Bibles, but perhaps we are short on “hunger”!
If you feel led to be part of answering this need, please go to our contact page under “MORE…” and we will be happy to send the appropriate information to be part of encouraging these believers: http://www.newfoundationsinternational.org/contact.html
If you would like to know more about this need, please watch this video.
Satisfying this hunger is more urgent than any other physical need. Job said, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my portion of food” (Job 23:12). “Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34), and His will is revealed in the Word of God. Let us help get His Word to hungry hearts.
Perhaps there is no other place in the universe that shows the power of God (His omnipotence) as the human body. With over 3 trillion bits of DNA information in our bodies and the capacity to have a relationship with our Creator in worship, we can say with David, “How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:17). There is no other part of creation that has the “image” and “likeness” of God (Genesis 1:26).
God the Creator knew us even before the cells in our bodies came together to form its members. In fact, God saw them before they formed and wrote them in His book, “every one of them, when as yet there was none of them” (139:16). That alone is cause for worship! Though medical technology has made huge strides toward giving us insight into the marvelous construction of our bodies, it cannot do what our Creator could see before we were formed in our mother’s womb. Then, His act of creation was to ‘knit [caused to grow] us together in our mother’s womb.’
While theories abound about our existence, we must turn to Scripture about God’s purpose for being made by Him. There is no other part of creation that God formed and then “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and then man became a living creature (soul)” (Genesis 2:7). This gave mankind the capacity to worship; so that we “might be to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:12).
The challenge you and I have is whether we see ourselves as “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). When we begin to understand such an amazing design and purpose, it changes the way we look at ourselves. We were not made to fulfill our own pleasures and desires, but those of our Creator, “who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen! (Romans 9:5).
Psalm 139:7-12. The closer we walk with the Lord, the more special His omnipresence (His presence everywhere) becomes. There are times when we feel very much alone, but in fact, we are never alone. It does not matter what the circumstances are, we are never alone.
What is it that makes the difference between knowing the presence of the Lord and sensing a distance between me and Him? In times when the Lord feels distance to me, I have allowed either coldness of heart or circumstances to stand between us. When sin is allowed to linger unconfessed and unforgiven in my heart, this becomes ‘darkness’ to my soul and I do not sense the Lord’s presence.
When I make my personal agenda more important than His, I go about my daily routine and leave the Lord out of my plans. Though He is there, I do not allow Him to have a say in my affairs. I do not sense the Spirit prompting my heart to give the proper honor and room for my Lord. When self-will takes the place of His will, I may even attempt to run from His presence because the Spirit is bringing conviction of sin. David proposes four extreme situations with the words, “If I…” and in each one, the Lord is still there. He waits for me to repent and return to the sweet fellowship He designed me to have with Him.
Physical conditions never alter the reality of His presence. It is only when I allow them to become bigger in my mind that He is hidden from me. What is the solution to these bents in our lives? “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands…purify your hearts” (James 4:8). Now in order to restore the presence of God in my life, I must start moving back toward Him because He has never moved away from me. His drawing near to me is only because in my wanting Him, I begin to sense His presence that was always there.
A very important part of this restoration process is repentance; “cleanse your hands…purify your hearts.” Remove the sins that result in not knowing His presence – yes, sin obscures our sense of God’s presence. John puts it this way; “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Fellowship is first restored with the Lord, and then is extended to those around us.
Psalm 139:1-6. A serious meditation on these verses makes us realize that there is nothing about us that God does not know. This is called His omniscience. To start with, He ‘searches’ every part of me. Why and what does this mean. Could it be that He is looking for His own image to shine through the human veil, or should I say, the likeness of Christ to dominate my life because I desire the work of the Spirit (John 16:13-14) in me more than the tendencies of my flesh. If this is my desire, I will acknowledge that God knows:
· Verse 2 – Everything I do; “when I sit down and when I rise up.” Nothing is hid from His eye.
· Verse 2 – Every thought; those inner motives and emotions that no one else sees; “You discern my thoughts from afar.”
· Verse 3 – Every path and road I travel. It is all known to God, because He is here.
· Verse 4 – Every word that my tongue forms is known in the context of why I say them and what the true meaning is behind them.
· Verse 5 – My whole life is under His control and He places limits to what I do in order that my life reflect His glory. Therefore, His hand is upon my life.
For the person bent on doing their own will, these are horrible truths to consider because they bring me face-to-face with the holiness of God and oppose my agenda. On the other hand, to the person who desires to please God, these verses are a great comfort, they are “too wonderful for me; it is too high; I cannot attain it” (v.6). Let us choose today to be under the loving eye of God and under His control.
There are times in our lives when we think the problems we face are unique only to us and no one else is going through the same thing or ever experienced a similar difficulty. It is also true that we often see the problems others face being solved and we think they are more spiritual or know more than we do. Is fervent prayer only done by elite people? Is it not open to anyone who knows the Lord and calls on His name? Consider Elijah’s FERVENT PRAYER.
“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit” (James 5:17–18).
Our concern may not be rain or bringing God’s judgment on an unfaithful nation, but we have the same opportunity as Elijah, to pray fervently about any situation in order to see God answer. We are men and women with the same nature as Elijah. The question I ask myself, and now ask you; do we really understand what fervent prayer is? Are my motives pure? Elijah prayed as he did because he felt God’s heart regarding Israel. In 1 Kings 17 to 18, Elijah was under God’s direction; going from place to place, crying out to God in fervent prayer, and God answered. From raising a dead son to consuming his offering and defeating the prophets of Baal, Elijah trusted God to answer when he called. If we are committed to let God’s heart govern ours, we will pray fervently.
What makes prayer powerful is dependent on how much we want to be with God and feel the conditions of our surroundings as He does. True, Elijah had his moments of doubt, but the power of his ministry was evident because he walked with God against the tide of unbelief and disobedience. How do you pray for matters of concern? Are you first alone with God to know His heart?
What is the first thing we do when we are faced with a severe trial, a crisis that comes into our lives unexpectedly? The answer to this question will be different depending on who is reading it and where you live in the world. At the same time, as followers of Jesus, it is good for any of us to look at models in Scripture that both encourage and challenge us to do the same.
URGENT PRAYER - “So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church” (Acts 12:5). As we see today in many governments around the world, there was hostility against what God was doing through the Apostles and disciples. The church immediately gathered for the purpose of praying for Peter. The words “earnest prayer” simply means that they spoke directly to God as intercession on behalf of Peter. This type of prayer is in contrast to recited prayers which just repeat what someone else has written. “Earnest prayer” begins in the heart, energized by the Holy Spirit with the truth of God’s promises behind it.
Peter is sleeping between two soldiers, unconcerned about his situation. He knows that his life is in the Lord’s hands and that provides comfort, confidence and peace. But the church must respond to the situation.
For us who watch others go through difficulties, we may pray with doubt whether God will answer. Those gathered at Mary’s house doubted that God would answer so quickly. This kind of praying requires two attitudes of the heart; 1) speaking to God with earnestness, that He resolve the problem by His wisdom and power, and 2) not putting a time limit or restriction on how quickly and in what way He answers.
I bring you another account of what God is doing through an indigenous people in another South East Asian country that must be left unnamed. The work there is truly indigenous because it does not need us to keep it going and it is truly self-sustaining because it is not dependent on money or other resources from America or anywhere else. They are equipped with God’s Word that has latched itself to their hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit. God’s Plan for His Church was only a tool that led them into a deeper hunger for His Word.
What these faithful servants have done follows the model Jesus gave to His disciples. “He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. And He said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So, they went out and proclaimed that people should repent” (Mark 6:8–12).
How can this be effective in our world today? Most evangelism is organized by leaders and methods from the West that begin with a budget (money). Jesus sent His disciples out with just a message; one that would not be generally accepted by most – “REPENT.” The message, not money, is what “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). As you look at these pictures, consider what they have. DO YOU HAVE THE SAME MESSAGE, THE SAME COMMITMENT, AND THE SAME PASSION?
There is a place in South East Asia where we have labored for many years. The results have been mixed in the sense that the indigenous leaders have not taken responsibility for their own spiritual growth and become self-supporting – UNTIL NOW! Here are a few responses we are receiving from the introductions to God’s Plan for His Disciples and God’s Plan for His Church.
“Current church planters and new church planters are so exciting to participate at your next church planting training in October 2018. The new church planters will come from the Rakhine State, Myanmar.”
“By the grace of God and your prayer, we are in good health. Our new church planters in Rakhine State are so exciting to learn and study the powerful church planting lessons through you all (the Scriptures). Our new church planters will come and they can attend for one week to learn and study your powerful church planting training courses during the month of October 2018.”
“Our previous church planters have already finished the remaining lessons of your church planting training courses. We purchased more rice bags and oil tanks for our church planting training in October 2018. We hope God will provide also for the travel costs of new church planters from Rakhine State.”
These and other testimonies are a proof that the Spirit of God is working where we are faithful to present the principles of God’s Word. It is a wonderful reminder of 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6; “Our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction…And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:5–6). If a mission work does not draw persons closer to Christ and the Holy Spirit, it is probably the efforts of man.
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