Oct. 30th – Nov. 5th. While we ate breakfast each morning at the hotel, lunch was always served at the training center. We purposely kept the evenings open after Wednesday so we could spend the time talking over the last four weeks, praying together, and letting the Lord speak to us. It was Thursday evening when Tim and I were walking the streets in search of a place to eat dinner, we felt the Lord clearly saying that He wants to significantly increase our passion for the unreached people groups of the world (see Mt. 24:14, understanding that “nations” means “ethos or ethnic groups”). I am sure people on the street wondered what these two strangers were saying as we animatedly discussed such a strong conviction. This must be the central driving force along with God’s purpose and plan for His church being and doing all for His glory. While our aim must be that those we train so that God’s people capture the same vision by the Holy Spirit, could it also be that God would allow these two old men to facilitate reaching an unreached people group before our life here is ended? Our fervent prayer is that this would happen.
Tim showed the list of 52 unreached people groups in Myanmar on the screen and asked if any were seeking to reach these. To our surprise, five or six hands went up. Tim then asked what the names were and one brother shared that he had reached the Ake. At the break we spoke to him through Moses and discovered that he had started twelve years ago. At that time there were no believers and no churches. Now there are three churches. That leaves 51 unreached groups. We wanted to interview him later, but the opportunity slipped through our figures.
Our seriousness and determination in our ministry is never so stilted and boring that we can’t enjoy a Swenson’s Ice Cream when it is available. So after a fried chicken dinner, we headed up another street to the new building I had seen a few days before. This Swenson’s had only been open two weeks and the steps up to the door were still unfinished, but that didn’t hinder us from achieving our goal. Friday evening was Tim’s last night in Yangon, so we repeated the habit as a farewell to my brother. He took the same flight Saturday morning that I would take on Thursday of the following week. We ate breakfast (omelet, toast and orange juice) and then a taxi was hailed and he was gone. I will not see him again until we are both home in NC.
By this stage of the training, we are assigning lessons for each person to work through in the evenings so they can get a true flavor of what is ahead of them in doing all the lessons. We made a change this time, considering we had a couple of extra days with this group, and had them divide into six groups so that one group (instead of one person) could do the six parts of the Book of Acts and they would assign one leader to represent their answers to the whole group. This worked well. We often have to skip over Paul’s thirteen letters (Early, Middle, and Later) because of the extensive reading and writing. This time we assigned Galatians, 1st and 2nd Thessalonians to two groups; Ephesians and Colossians to two more groups; and Titus and 2nd Timothy to the last two groups. This was extremely beneficial as it gave them a much clearer understanding of why Paul wrote his letters in a certain order and how they are tools to address specific issues. Saturday was used to hear their findings and help fill in a few holes in their observations. To be at one of these events and see the Holy Spirit bring understanding and vision is something to experience.
As we concluded Saturday, I assigned the first lessons on the Roles in the Family for Monday morning. Even though I planned to use Sunday as a down day to rest, Mang asked me to preach. When I told him that I really wanted to rest, his face gave me a pleading look that I couldn’t turn down. Since my talk with the group in Michael’s office, the Lord had added some insights that thrilled my heart and pushed me to share the message again, but with added insight. It was evident that God was really working in most hearts. A couple who are close friends with Mang said they came back Sunday morning because of how the teaching had really touched them. I looked forward to being with them Monday morning when I would share the message from Lesson 33, “Your Life in Christ”.
After a traditional Burmese lunch, I went back to hotel for some rest. I had one last chance to go to Scot’s Market and pick up some gifts that I usually get for Rosemary and others. After a good sleep for about an hour, I got a taxi to the market. It did not take me long to find what I wanted. The shop owner recognized me immediately and gave me a very good deal. From the market I walked to the Shangri La Hotel where I could get very strong internet with a cup of coffee (a Tim Bunn trick!). I had been there about an hour when I felt the Burmese lunch was working some serious damage. After using their restroom, I quickly got a taxi back to the Bliss Hotel where diarrhea set in for the next day and a half. I phoned Mang Monday morning after a very rough night and told him what was happening. My worry was not that I couldn’t teach, because Moses knew the material well and didn’t need me to carry on. My worry was how soon would this condition turn around? During the night I dug into the pharmacy that Rosemary always sends with me and found the anti-diarrhea medication and began the routine. Between Mang, Ciin and the hotel, many provided lemon tea and whatever they thought was helpful. By Tuesday morning, I was getting a little worried how long this was going to last. Rosemary contacted our PA and got instructions which I followed to a “T” and the condition began turning for the better. Tuesday afternoon I walked to the training center just to be with them for a couple hours. They all came around me and prayed. There was a feeling of oneness and deep concern on their part which was very touching.
Wednesday morning was truly a new day. The prayers of God’s people were being answer. The antibiotics, change in diet, and a good sleep certainly worked together for my good. When I arrived at the training center, they were already in worship and prayer; preparing themselves for the day. There were four more lessons that they had not shared yet, so I gave them that opportunity.
Since Tim and I emphasized the unreached people groups of Myanmar (51), we kept this before them throughout the training. I asked if someone would come up to the white board and draw out the six chapters of the manual. No one wanted to venture such a task until a pastor who had been very studious and good in his responses offered. It was amazing to watch him, without notes or book, go through each chapter, even adding some things we do not normally expect. We applauded his success. As I looked at the board and reflected back to what happened in Jerusalem as the Holy Spirit filled believers then and soon forced them out into unreached parts of the world, I felt inspired to write just above Jerusalem, Yangon. I then asked the group to come up one-by-one and write the name of an unreached people group or an area that the Lord placed on their heart. One sister almost jumped out of her chair as she responded and came to the board to write a name down. This was followed one-by-one as they came forward until everyone had written on the board a people group or area they would reach. We then gathered closely around the board and had an extended time in prayer asking God to seal these commitments on our hearts and then put our feet in motion to accomplish His purpose. I felt this was a very significant moment for Myanmar and these people.
I gave a closing message and instructions on finishing the lessons in preparation for meeting again and doing the projects. Brother Mang felt that we should end the time in prayer again and then asked me to go to each person and pray for them individually. In my mind, I felt a little overwhelmed considering the size of the group, but as I obeyed, the Lord gave me specific things to pray for with the limited knowledge I had of each one. This was followed by them praying for me – a very moving experience! The goodbyes were endless and many were with tears. I truly felt that God had done a work in them that was going to last and have a major impact on Myanmar and bring great eternal glory to God. Mang and Ciin came to me over and over saying that they had never experienced anything like it before. Now I ask you who have read all this to the end; will you commit to praying for these people? Will you hold them up with us so that God will do a mighty work in Myanmar for His glory and fulfill the promise in Rev. 5:9-10 that there will be those out of every tribe and language and people and nation who sing a new song of praise to our Lord Jesus?
Though they begged me to stay for dinner, I was physically spent and needed to pack for my flight in the morning to Bangkok. Mang asked what time I was leaving for the airport. I said 8 a.m. Packing went well and I had a good sleep which was facilitated by the sound of rain that continued for over a day and a half. I was downstairs by 7:15 for my standard egg on toast and orange juice. By 7:40, Mang, Ciin, and Joe Lim arrived to see me off. It seemed like the whole hotel staff escorted me out to the taxi for their final goodbyes. I know when I am loved and appreciated, not for what I am or do for others, but for what God has done in them that will never be removed by distance or time in this world. After forging through flooded streets to the airport, I was in the final lift-off from this country of Myanmar. Two days of rest in Bangkok and I’m on my way home! May the Lord be forever praised for His abounding love and faithfulness to us who are so unworthy of such a privilege!
“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I have received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” Acts 20:24
"The supreme task of the church is the evangelization of the world."
Oswald J. Smith (The Challenge of Missions, page 15).
Are you involved?
Just yesterday I was looking at Jesus' words in Luke 4:
“And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place (see also Mk. 1:35). And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.” (Luke 4:42–44).
I see four principles in these verses that marked the Lord's life and was continued by the apostles.
In Jeremiah 18:1-10; Romans 9:19-24; 2 Corinthians 4:7-12, God uses the analogy of clay in the Potter’s hand to illustrate how He wants to mold and shape us according to His design and purpose. One of the most importance elements in keeping the clay flexible in the Potter’s hand is water (the Holy Spirit). Without continual application of the Holy Spirit to our lives, we will become brittle and resist God’s shaping hand on us.
A lump of clay that refuses to be softened by water (the Holy Spirit) will become useless and perhaps even rejected as a vessel "honorable...set apart as holy, useful for the master" (2 Timothy 2:21). Read also 1 Corinthians 9:27.
Why are we so willing to accept something less, a lower standard, or a different method than what God has held up in His word? Why are we so quick to proclaim ourselves as the “cutting edge” in ministry, but unwilling to humbly acknowledge how far short we fall from God’s design as He gave it to us in Scripture? Every decision we make in life and ministry will either reflect and give glory to God or will detract in some way from it!
a. What brings about change and a desire to return to God’s plan? We must open our hearts to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and this will result in immediate REPENTANCE! How does this happen?
i. God’s Word becomes a mirror (James 1:22-25), reflecting a clear comparison between God’s plan and purpose for my life, marriage, family and church, with what the facts really are.
ii. God’s Word is like fire and a hammer (Jer. 23:28-29) that burns up what is useless to God and breaks what is hard, stubborn and resistant to the Spirit.
iii. God’s Word is like water (Eph. 5:25-27). The more I take it in the more it cleanses from the inside out.
iv. God’s Word is “perfect, reviving the soul” (Ps. 19:7). There is always hope when I apply God’s perfect Word to myself and my situation.
b. If true repentance takes place, what can you and I expect? “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:19–20, ESV). If you have never experienced sweet fellowship with the Lord, this is the path where it begins.
Let the Word of God change us so we become better reflectors!
My brother Tim gave me a quote from Thomas A. Kempis recently: “Use the temporal; desire the eternal”. Paul said, “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself”. That is the temporal. Then he goes on to say, “if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” That is the eternal.
How do you measure your life alongside Paul’s?
At the close of this Book of Moses (Leviticus), God raises the standard of valuation to that of the “shekel of the sanctuary” (27:3, 25). When Paul was dealing with the problems of immorality and pride that existed in Corinth, he did not use the Law to correct the problem, but he raises the standard of our value to the “shekel of the sanctuary”, or in his words; “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God…you are not your own, for you were bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Peter points to the same valuation; “knowing that you were ransomed…with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
On what basis we put value on ourselves and others will determine how we conduct ourselves in private and with others!
“Walking and living by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16-26) becomes a higher and higher priority the more I realize the “price or valuation” God has put on me – His Son! All of this leads toward one end; that we see ourselves as God’s church, “the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph. 2:21-22). To see ourselves in Christ is to understand the value God has placed on us!
What problems would this resolve with you, your marriage, family or church?
In the last few weeks the Spirit has opened my understanding as I have read the Word and pondered its eternal application to us. What started this was that a dear brother was explaining the difficulties they are going through regarding a building that is not finished where the church wants to meet. As I prayed for him, the Spirit directed my attention to God's BIG PICTURE that began in past eternity. If we are going to grasp the details of God's plan, we must also look at the BIG PICTURE - GOD'S PLAN AND PURPOSE FROM ETERNITY PAST!
Let's start with Eph. 3:8-10 and Col. 1:24-29. Paul wanted to "make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations...the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:25, 27). The greatness of this mystery is not understood because we have a building, but because the Holy Spirit, the "Helper" is "with you forever" (John. 14:16) and He, the Father and the Son "will come...and make our home with him" (14:23). Plus the Holy Spirit "will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (14:26). This does not need a building; just human hearts that receive God's grace.
Now, let's go back to Genesis 1:28-30; 3:8-9. God began *HIS*story with man by spending time in The Garden talking to man, in fellowship with man in a relationship that did not need a temple, a building or a special place. It only need God and man in relationship as God designed it - *PERFECT!*
Solomon realized that "heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you (God); how much less this house that I have built" (1 Kings 8:27). Paul reminds us of what happened at Pentecost, "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you" (1 Cor. 3:16) "your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (God) within you, whom you have from God" (1 Cor. 6:19).
John 4:19-28. The woman of John 4 realizes that Jesus is the answer to her problems and starts talking about worship. She points to a mountain where her fathers worshiped and that the Jews worshiped in Jerusalem (the temple). Jesus points to a different kind of worship and a different place of worship. The different kind of worship was a relationship with God as "Father" through the Spirit. The 'different place of worship' was the heart where our spirits are in agreement with His Spirit and where His truth is our only truth. This does not require a building or a place, but a living relationship in the power of the Spirit.
Revelation 21:3, "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "*Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.*" The end of *HIS*story is the same as the beginning. God with man in *PERFECT* communion, in fellowship, man in worship without the need of any man-made things such as buildings, pews, pulpits, etc. The whole plan and purpose of redemption was to restore fallen man to relationship that needs nothing except the finished work of Jesus and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. In pointing to these Scriptures, I fully understand that there is nothing wrong with buildings in and of themselves, but there is a transcending importance in the relationship we have with God through Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. What a great opportunity we have in any difficult time or circumstance to point the saints to something that is far, far greater than a physical building or place. Build in the saints a vision for what is eternal! Ephesians 2:19-22, "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. In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit."
May the Holy Spirit give us this eternal 'BIG PICTURE' - God's thoughts, plans and purpose that do not change even in time!
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