MYANMAR AND NIGERIA - NEWS!
We have several updates that you should know about regarding this ministry in difficult places.
Brother M was one of four men who traveled from Rakhine state to attend our training meeting in Mandalay on October 15-17. On his way home the Arakan Army detained him. We don't know where he is or if he is OK, so please lift him up in prayer. The conflict in Myanmar states of Rakhine and Kachin is a real danger to many who live in these parts, and this is the reason we are seeking to reach out to them. We still have not heard about M from Rakhine state in Myanmar. Let's keep asking God for his release from his captors.
On October 17, we had 35 from ABC (Alliance of Burmese Calling) complete GPHD in Mandalay, Myanmar and graduate since they completed all the work.
The training at GTP in Yangon has gone very well. In just 3 days they were understanding the principles of the New Testament Church. We often underestimate the ability and power of God's Word and the Holy Spirit mixed with a hungry soul.
Yesterday in our last meeting in Yola, Nigeria, we stopped our meeting to pray for a brother who had been kidnapped. This persecution is here in Nigeria as well, even though it is not coming through the government. The government here often does nothing to those who kill and kidnap.
At the same time, we praise God for 49 people who are graduating GPHC in Yola, with 11 more that should finish this week! That will make 60 or more in all who are ready to implement the plans God has given them.”
We are proving the truth of Jesus’ words; “I will build My church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
NO SHORT-CUTS TO APPROVAL
My partner in this ministry and brother in the Lord spoke with me early this morning about a comment I made years ago related to those who go with us on our mission trips. I said at that time, and still strongly believe, that we require that persons work through our training material before going on a trip. Those who have not done the work find it difficult to join in the training sessions because they have not wrestled with the biblical principles.
Paul had a similar requirement which added elements we will discuss here. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Both requirements really needed today!
If we were very honest with ourselves and each other, we must admit that the approval of men drives much of what we do and say. Our first and ONLY consideration is whether we are approved in the sight of God. I have been studying the prophets in the Old Testament and have been reminded over and over of men who were very alone and hated because they honored God and spoke the truth.
The other point that Paul makes is to “rightly handling the word of truth.” That is what makes anyone serviceable and fruitful in the Lord’s work. If we in anyway distort the Word of God to satisfy what people want to hear, we are dishonest with God’s Word. That in turn means we will be ineffective and will rob God of His glory. These two points go together! We cannot seek man’s approval and “rightly handling the word of truth!” I urge you to be a person approved of God FIRST! He will help you through His Spirit to rightly handling the word of truth.”
A STRANGER CAUSES HEARTS TO BURN
Most people who attend a Christian Bible believing church have heard sermons on Luke 24; the two who walked the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. The events of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection were fresh on their minds and the topic of discussion as they walked. Suddenly, a stranger joins their walk along the road and picks up on their conversation.
Little did they expect that this stranger would solve their questions about what just happened in Jerusalem, but He would also reveal to them who He was. Without a chance to react to this amazing revelation, the stranger who they know now as the risen Jesus suddenly disappears. Could He have just stayed with them a little longer so they could ask Him a few questions or left something they could idolize? NO! Something better took place in them.
“They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?”” (Luke 24:32).
What is most important in any spiritual experience is that something happens in our hearts that causes a burning desire to know more. In this experience, we must be driven to the Scripture. Jesus never attached people to anything physical on earth except the Word of God, water baptism, and the bread and cup in His supper.
Does your heart burn to know more of Jesus through His Word? If not, something is missing.
The king of Syria was on a mission to intimidate Israel and the man of God. His “CIA” discovered that Elisha was at Dothan and “sent…horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city” (2 Kings 6:14). This sounds like Elisha is going to be a dead prophet.
The next morning when Elisha’s servant “went out, and behold, an army with horses and chariots were all around the city” (6:15), he became very concerned about their immediate safety and said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” Then Elisha said, “Do not be afraid” (6:16). The prophet was not in the least bit disturbed, but did not leave the situation without going to the Lord in prayer. Notice how he prayed.
“Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (6:17).
There are so many times in conversations with people who are facing very difficult circumstances that I wish they could see the resources they have in Christ. This takes spiritual vision. It is my prayer over and over that God would “have the eyes of their hearts enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18) by His truth. God must do that in them, but we who see the truth must pray and not doubt.
Again, Elisha prayed and the Lord struck the Syrians with blindness (2 Kings 6:18). Without a close relationship with the Lord, we will not see circumstances clearly and we will not know how to pray.
It is dangerous for any leader to not have 20/20 spiritual vision. The responsibility of leading God’s people is one that requires something quite different than worldly leadership, or should I say, totally different qualities than a corporate organization. Let’s start with humility, integrity, a caring heart, and a foundation in their thinking based on God’s Word – TRUTH.
There is more. God’s leaders who are effective have learned to be sensitive to the guidance and will of God. None have been perfect, but most have learned important lessons along the way. Samuel is one of those leaders who learned as a young boy to listen when God spoke to him. One of those occasions happened when God told Samuel to make a feast for Jesse’s family and select one of his sons as the next king of Israel.
When the first son of Jesse came before Samuel, “he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him”” (1 Samuel 16:6). Like Samuel, we often make leadership choices based on outer appearance without knowing the character of a person. In this case, God corrects Samuel quickly with a very insightful statement. “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart”” (16:7).
This is a lesson that is often hard to learn and accept. Often the pressure of filling a position or need makes us rush into making a choice when God wants us to look and wait for His best.
2020 VISION IN LEADERS
One of the most critical areas that must have clear vision in the Church is leadership. While there are many examples we could examine, I will select a couple from the Old Testament that point to a character quality that is so important for spiritual 2020 vision.
Moses valued the presence of God more than anything. That began early in his career when “the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush” (Exodus3:2). As he began leading the Israelites through the wilderness, the people sinned against God and made for themselves a “golden calf” as their god. This was repulsive to Moses who knew God and he took “the tent [where he met with God] and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp” (33:7).
This had a huge influence on “his assistant, Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent” (33:11). I ask you; are those around you influenced by your love for the presence of God? Joshua certainly was and it prepared him to become the next leader of Israel; getting them across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. This “young man” influenced another young man; Caleb. Together they stood against a whole nation who rebelled and lied about the Land.
Many leadership books point to different styles of leadership as being valid in our day. There is one characteristic every leader must have – a love for the presence of God and making that a priority daily! If it requires that you set aside some things others want you to do, set them aside. NOTHING should stand between you and being alone with the Lord!
SEEING THROUGH SPIRITUAL EYES
Perhaps one of the hardest things a Christian can do is see our life and the world around us as God sees it. Born, raised and living in a world where we take in a very large portion of what we think about and believe by what we see, makes seeing God’s perspective very difficult. From every form of media, books and just walking through life, our senses constantly feed information to our brains and hearts. Add to all of this the emotions that react to this information.
If we are going to place the correct value on what we see, hear and feel, we must constantly inform our thinking with how God sees things and how He want us to see them. I have been writing about buildings, both material and spiritual. Remember Paul’s words; “as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). That word “transient” means “temporary or for a very short period of time.”
Though the church at Ephesus was a strong body of believers who were blest with strong faith (Ephesians 1:3-14; Revelation 2:1-7), Paul still prayed “that the God of our Lord Jesus [would] have the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope…riches…and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe” (1:17-19). Let that soak into your heart and mind. Those are things that cannot be seen with the human eye.
What are you allowing to control your thoughts, your heart and your emotions? If it is what God gives through His Word and in communion with the Lord, you will navigate well in this world.
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BUILDING!
As I have grown in my appreciation for what Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection and ascension accomplished, one of the significant outcomes is the Church. After Jesus ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost and through Him, “we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
Through this divine act of placing every believer into “one body” – the body of Christ, the Church, something else took place which Paul explains in such a beautiful way.
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:19–21).
No buildings are needed! We need to emulate our suffering brothers and sisters around the world who have no buildings, no property, no money and no organizations, but they have Christ as their Head and center. This is the church in Iran and other persecuted places. They have His presence through the Holy Spirit, and as they gather in secret, they form the “holy temple in the Lord!”
This is what generates genuine praise and worship! While buildings have their place, they can never take the place of devoted lovers of Jesus gathering with Him as their all and everything!
In recent conversations and in past encounters around the world, the question has been raised as to whether it is necessary to have a church building in order to have the expression of the Church any given place. Our answer is NO! Instead of taking what we say as the answer, let’s go to the Bible to discover what it says.
We begin with the words of Jesus; ““We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands”” (Mark 14:58). The Jews put a lot of emphasis on the building itself, while Jesus was going to form a new temple through His body, the Church.
We must also remember that the church is made up of individual believers, or “living stones” as Peter refers to those who make up the church (1 Peter 2:5). “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?...For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16–17).
These verses refer to the members of the Church. Tomorrow we will look at other Scriptures that point to the Church as a collection of believers “built together” into somewhere God can dwell. That is not a building. It is the living body of Christ wherever they are.
LESS IS SOMETIMES MORE
We have discovered this principle many times over, and again, God is confirming to us that large numbers are not always a sign of more success. As Tim and Tom have started the four-week training in Yangon, Myanmar, they report back to us the following information.
“We wanted to give you an update on the training at GTP. God has sovereignly provided 13 students this year, whereas we normally have 20-25 students. Interestingly, these 13 make up 6 people groups throughout Myanmar.”
The number may be fewer, but the scope and potential of these students has no limits. This reminds me of a quote from Dwight L. Moody: “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to Him. By God’s help, I aim to be that man.” Let’s pray that these 13 students will rise to full consecration to God and His work. I include myself in this. Will you?
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