This week (July 29th to August 3) there is a conference in Yangon, Myanmar. The initial report for the first two days is that there are "about 50 - 60 hungry souls" at the meeting and we are seeing "a real work of the Spirit".
These two things will always go together; hunger for God's Word and a work of the Spirit. Notice the example in the Book of Acts:
Acts 10:33, "Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord." There was a readiness to hear what God would say, which we receive primarily through His Word. This is followed a few verses later with Luke's record; "While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word" (verse 44).
If you want to see God's Spirit work in our day, promote a hunger for His Word, not yourself.
In all things, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).
One of the key principles we see in the Book of Acts is that the life, fellowship and preaching; all forms of worship of the early church, was a strong reason why the church grew so rapidly (Acts 2:14-47; 6:7; 10:34-48; 13:48-49). Dr. Edmund Clowney has said, “When we worship God as we ought, that is when the nations will listen.”
Is our worship truly God-centered? If we mix in to our worship anything that exalts man, we will weaken out gospel voice to the nations; the unreached.
Previously we discussed how God wants to use you and me for His purpose – to bring Him eternal glory! In this post, I desire to turn your attention to those things that makes us moldable clay (teachable) in God’s hand.
If we think about our circumstances, the trials we go through, and our own brokenness, we have to admit that we are more often resistant to His hand on us. We rarely invite Him to reshape us from the inside out. What changes our attitude toward the pressure of God’s shaping hand? Please consider the following.
· Humility does not demand things work out my way – for my “own interests” (Phil. 2:21).
· Humility does not seek to “gratify the desire of the flesh” – my will (Gal. 5:16).
· Humility makes submission to God and others possible (1 Peter 5:5).
· Submission to God prepares me to be “transformed by the renewal of my mind” (Ro. 12:2). My thinking is being changed by His work in me.
· Submission to the Spirit leading me (my thinking, desires, actions, words, etc.) according to God’s plan and will (Gal. 5:18). Note: The word “led” means to be “taken hold of or take with” the Holy Spirit’s control.
This is very challenging to me! How are you reacting to this?
Here is the testimony of someone from Myanmar who recently went through God’s Plan for His Church training. “By taking GPHC training in Chiang Mai, I learned your heart for His kingdom, your teaching style one by one, your desire for the family of Christian leaders, your perspective on the life of Paul and the methods of Paul for imparting to present day church planters.”
In the last post, we looked at Jeremiah 18:1-10. Notice that God “reworked the clay into another vessel as it seemed good to the potter to do” (v.4).
· Why do we question the design God is working into our lives? It is our pride.
· Do we think we know better that God for our lives, marriages, family and church?
· Do we allow human ideas, methods, and programs dictate what we will “allow” God to do with us?
· We don’t like what He is doing to us.
But I am learning – God has a perfect plan and purpose, and His design that He is working into my life has one goal; that He can use me for His purpose – to bring Him eternal glory! His hands make a “vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master…, ready for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).
God has put His hands on my life that has caused pain and I almost lost sight of why. Thankfully, He has applied the water of the Holy Spirit to soften my “clay” so He can shape my life to bring Him glory. Ask God to enlighten “the eyes of your heart that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you” (Ephesians 1:18) to bring Him glory!
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!
Tim and I are home and very thankful to see our wives and families. Picking up from our last letter, on May 14, we spent four days in Phnom Penh, Cambodia training a church planter among the Khmer people. He is unique as he seeks to following Paul's example of working to provide for his own needs. To accomplish this, several helped purchase a Tuk Tuk which he will use for income and transportation. His vision is to train other "Timothy's" with GPHC and help them start a business that will provide their income. He clearly has a heart for living and duplicating the Early Church model.
Tim and I left on the 19th; Tim to Laos to deliver Bibles which had been provided by Wake Christian Academy, Raleigh, NC and others here at home. I proceeded to Chiang Mai to start training a pastor from Pakistan. Tim arrived a few days later and we focused on one-on-one training him and then two other men from Myanmar for the next three weeks using God's Plan for His Church manual. We are convinced of the effectiveness of this method! The personal interaction, valuable discussion and fellowship over how the biblical principles work out in each culture brought inspiration and a fresh appreciation of Scripture in their setting. With a few, time was taken to complete the "pre-assigned" work, but these brothers were diligent and hard-working so that each one completed the final project, developing their own strategy for ministry in their setting with the principles they learned. These men represent the Karen, Chin, Katchin, Burmese, and Naga people groups of Myanmar and the Karen in Thailand. Translation work is already in progress for these languages.
Let me summarize how the Lord has led us to this point in our ministry. Having taught the manual in conferences for many years and seen little multiplication from this venue, we felt that Paul's method of mentoring Timothy was more effective and would multiply much faster. After much prayer and searching for about a year, Tim found a Christian couple in Chiang Mai who would rent us a four bedroom house with a kitchen and sitting area for a very reasonable price.
Paul said in I Corinthians 16:8 that he would “stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened for me.” God has opened many doors for us, but like Paul, we desired to enter this “effective” opened door. It allows us to train one-on-one, face-to-face, where persons are away from the responsibilities of ministry, culture and family in a quite neighborhood, yet within walking distance of village stores for food and necessities. The owners are convinced this is the purpose God has for this place and are fully behind us.
While we were there, God opened another door through the owners. Here is a comment from them: "A new teaching team from the United States viz., Pastors Tim Bunn and Sherman Driver of Go-Reconcile, will train our evangelists in August; and our regular mentor Rev. Dr. Tan Wai Choon in November." This training will be with the Lahu people group in Thailand.
We praise the Lord as we share this with you. Please continue to pray for us that we remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit for His "effective work", humble in spirit, and physically able to meet the demands. Also pray that God will raise up Timothy's who God will call to this work. Tim will be returning to Burma/Myanmar at the end of July for a conference in Yangon. From there, he will return to Chiang Mai, Thailand to train leaders from Africa and the Thailand Karen and Lahu. Pray that each of these open doors will turn out to be God's "effective work" for His glory!
One of the most fruitful meetings we have ever experienced took place in Turkey a couple of years ago with key leaders from the Middle East, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria. I believe a couple of factors were in play here which greatly enhanced the results. One was isolating the leaders from their busyness, cell phones and ministries. Secondly, was their diligent pre-meeting work in the manual in preparation for the meeting, therefore we are going to try the same method in Asia and see what happens. Also, there are several other benefits: it costs less for the indigenous leaders to travel to a neutral location and for us to travel to a location that is easily accessible and many times less dangerous. It sounds like a win win situation, but we will wait and see. Actually, there is another aspect of this new training. We are training one or two key leaders instead of holding a conference. Many times, we train leaders but the “key” leader is never really on board with the teaching which sometimes can create problems. By training the key leader one on one, he will then be able to go back and do a conference on his own hopefully without our presence, which is also a cost saving factor. We would appreciate your prayers for discernment and wisdom, but most of all, that we be filled with the Spirit and focused on our Head, the Lord Jesus Christ.
It will also be our joy to deliver approximately 2,500 Bible to believers in Laos, a country where the Word of God is only in the hands of a few. Also, through the gifts of many, 1,000 Bibles are being given to the Karen Refugee Camp that burned down on the border between Thailand and Myanmar. Please rejoice with us that God has provided these and pray that they will arrive safely without incident.
For a long time we have encouraged ministers of the gospel to be self-sustaining so they do not need outside support. We have the joy of helping a brother in Christ purchase a Tuk Tuk so he can provide for himself and use the profit to help others do the same. Following this model of Paul will accelerate the spread of the gospel and give a living proof of its life changing message. Please pray that this brother will become a model to many in his country and beyond.
To God be the Glory!
ITINERARY May 5 – 12 Key Karen Leader from Thailand: Will work through the manual, God’s Plan for His Church, completing the projects and developing a church renewal and church planting strategy for Karen Baptist of Thailand. Training will be held in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
May 12 – 19 Key Leader from Cambodia: Will work through the manual, God’s Plan for His Church, completing the projects and developing a church renewal and church planting strategy for the Khmer of Cambodia and purchase Tuk-Tuk to help key leaders become self-sustaining. Training will be held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
May 19 -21 Distributing Bibles in Vientiane, Laos
May 19 – 26 Key leader from Pakistan: Will work through the manual, God’s Plan for His Church, completing the projects and developing a church renewal and church planting strategy for Pakistan. Training will be held in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
May 19 – 26 Distributing Bibles and encouragement to the Karen refugee camp on the Burma/Thailand border which was burned to the ground.
May 26 – June 2 Key Burmese and Karen Leader from Burma: Will work through the manual, God’s Plan for His Church, completing the projects and developing a church renewal and church planting strategy. Training will be held in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
June 2 – June 8 Key Chin Leader from Burma: Will work through the manual, God’s Plan for His Church, completing the projects and developing a church renewal and church planting strategy. Training will be held in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
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?
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