In Ephesians 6:17-18, Paul makes the connection between the life of war and the work of prayer. “Take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, will all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” Until we feel the force of this, we will not pray as we should. We will not even know what prayer is.
As in war, prayer is the communication with headquarters by which the weapons of warfare are deployed according to the will of God. That is the connection between the weapons and prayer in Ephesians 6. Prayer is for war.
Let the Nations be Glad – The Supremacy of God in Missions, John Piper, Baker Academic, 2007, page 48.
HOW ARE YOU USING THE WORD? Since it is given us by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21), should we not make it our top priority to earnestly seek Him in prayer so we properly use it?
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
Oct. 24, 2014: The next few days will be in summary with much less detail. The flight to Yangon was very good and time passed quickly as I got back into reading a book by Reg Reimer entitled “Vietnam’s Christians”. A weird thing happened at RGN as I was expecting Brother Mang or a young man to meet me at the airport since I had never stayed at the Bliss Hotel. After waiting a half hour, exchanging some money and being asked many times by one taxi drive in particular to take me where I wanted to go, I asked the taxi driver to call Mang’s cell number. We discovered it was no longer in service. After praying and asking the Lord he would be there, I gave another brother’s number and he answered. He gave the driver the location of the hotel and how much he should charge me (important if they think you are new to the country), I was off to another place for my two weeks temporary home.
Bliss Hotel indeed had my name and put me in a room on the third floor at the front overlooking the street. One of the first things I always do in a new location is check-out their Wi-Fi so I can get/send email and talk to Rosemary on Skype. It was so bad I went downstairs and told them how important this was to me that I get connected. Thankfully, they had the same room on the second floor and it was better; but only a little better. At least I could get email. Unfortunately, this proved to be a struggle for both Tim (after he arrived) and myself for the rest of our stay. While this is a modern crutch, it is vital to stay in touch with home as much as possible for many reasons.
Worried that Mang had gone to the airport and not found me, I walked four short blocks to their place on the top floor (eighth) of a corner business and residence building overlooking the Yangon River, to let them know I had arrived. It was a thrill to see them again. We discovered that the young man they sent to the airport arrived too early and left before I got to the lobby. We enjoyed dinner together with Mang, Ciin and Andrew from Australia who was there to teach the following week on Cell Church Ministry during the day, and Tim and I would train using God’s Plan for His Church in the evening. The schedule was not completely clear, but I usually figure the details as we go along.
After dinner, I walked back to the hotel to settle in for the night. Friday was largely a day of rest except that Michael wanted to have lunch with me. He arrived around 12:30 p.m. with a brother (Sun) and we walked up the street to a Mini-Mart which had a pastry shop on the third floor. Getting to know Sun’s story was fascinating. He is a truck driver (big rig) and for many years lived as an alcoholic which brought trouble to his marriage and family. After complaining to a friend about how bad things were, his friend gave him a Bible. Not knowing where to begin reading, he opened to the book of Proverbs and was drawn to the wisdom he had never heard of that answered so many of the problems he faced. After a time, he went back to his friend and asked where this wisdom came from? This was the open door of his heart that received the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ that delivered him from Buddhism and drinking. Because his wife is very ill, he has left his job and is now caring for her full time. What a marvelous story of grace! We cannot limit God and the ways He will use to bring a soul out of darkness into His light.
Saturday was the 25th Anniversary Celebration of God’s Trio Partners at the training center, beginning at 10 a.m. Arriving about 9:45, I found myself among two hundred or more and began to see a couple familiar faces, including Andrew from Melbourne, Australia, the three from England, and Moses who Tim and I trained in Chiang Mai. Trying to take a back seat didn’t work. So, along with others, we were asked to sit in the front with Mang and Ciin. Many church planters and pastors from all over Myanmar were there who had been trained by them over the years. The next three plus hours were filled with worship, testimonies, slide shows and singing by different ethnic groups. After the service there was a meal provided for all who had come. It was quite an event.
Mang asked me to attend their service the next day (Sunday) and serve Communion. This is usually a risky thing to do because there are so many denominational and cultural traditions and specific ways of doing this, but knowing Mang, I felt at home to help as the Lord led. They placed Communion in the middle of the service after worship and many testimonies, but before the sermon which was being given by Andrew. I took the liberty to explain how and why Jesus used the Passover as a transition element to introduce the Lord’s Supper and why it now holds such importance for the church. Many came up to me after to express appreciation for the way I had done this and what greater meaning it gave them every time it would be celebrated in the future until the Lord comes.
Tim was arriving from Chiang Mai in the afternoon, so I double checked with Mang to be sure that if someone was going to meet him, they had the correct time of arrival, and if necessary, I would go as well. Oh how I wanted to see him again. I was assured that Joe Lim would be the one to fetch Tim and bring him to the hotel. About 3:30 p.m., he arrived at the Bliss Hotel and we both had a moment of blissJ Now we were up to our old habits of walking the town to find a place for food and, yes, ice cream! Finding places to eat was no problem. Good ice cream took a back seat for one day.
Oct. 27-29. Since Andrew was continuing his teaching on the “Cell Church” until noon on Thursday, Mang asked Tim and me to take two hours in the evening (Monday through Wednesday) to begin the introduction of God’s Plan for His Church. This gave Tim and me the next three days to get into mischief during the day! Don’t ask for details!!
Michael had asked me through email and on Friday if I would speak to a group of church planters and pastors who gather regularly at his office for prayer and encouragement. When I made this arrangement with Michael, I did not tell him that Tim might be with us, so it was a joyous moment when He came around 10:30 a.m. with Sun and we headed to his office which is about ten minutes away. It was only a couple blocks away from our hotel that I noticed a new building that was near completion which had on the first floor a Swenson’s Ice Cream and it appeared open. I tucked that in my memory for later reference.
We arrived at Michael’s and were greeted by his wife Gulu. It was good to see her and Dal No who was the interpreter for Randy and me the last time we were here. Sitting at a long row of narrow tables were about fifteen men and women who were giving testimonies of what God was doing in their ministries and asking for specific prayer. About 11:30, Michael asked me to speak a word of encouragement to them before lunch was served. The Lord put on my heart to trace through Scripture those who had learned to live in a close relationship to God so they could hear Him speak to them. Beginning with Enoch, Noah and Moses, and then ending with those in the seven churches of Revelation 2 and3 who have an ear to hear what the Spirit says to the church. Michael then asked Tim if he wanted to say anything. He concluded our time with how the importance of this truth affects our marriage, family, the church, and our testimony to the world. We then enjoyed a time of fellowship over lunch, learning what the Lord is doing with some of those present. I have not mentioned it each time it comes, but this is the rainy season and it is common once a day to have a heavy downpour. I was beginning to wonder if we would even be able to get into the car parked outside. It is also common that these storms do not last long and within a half hour it had almost stopped. Michael took us back to the hotel where we rested and prepared for the evening session.
Since Tim was leaving Saturday morning for Phnom Penh, Cambodia, I deferred to him teaching as much as possible and prayed that this would set the stage for the ten days ahead. There is one thing in our favor and that is our dear Brother Mang who is truly like-minded with us in GPHC. Tim took extra time in Chapter One hoping to lay a firm foundation in the sixty or so present. On Tuesday, Tim and I decided to sit in on the Cell Church training just to see what it was like and how close the teaching was to what we were presenting. We both agreed that it was supportive of an Acts model and did not detract from our training. For this we are thankful!
Oct. 23-26. Repacking after one night was easy and we headed to B’s for breakfast. Poor little M. did not want to say goodbye to G’Papa and walk to school, but we wiped the tears away and P drove her across the street instead of making her walk. Since my flight didn’t leave until 11:55 a.m., we lingered over breakfast and then P, T and B loaded me and my two bags into their car. What I did not realize was they were adding another hour so we could stop at a coffee shop near the airport and have some coffee or tea before I left. They secretly arranged for T-2 to also meet us there. Rosemary had asked if I could get some Vietnamese cinnamon which is supposedly some of the best in the world. I had failed, but T-2 was determined to find it, and find it she did! She located both hand ground and store bought. The aroma smelt so fresh and pungent. We had a delightful time together which made the next phase all the harder. Before leaving the restaurant, I asked each person to give me their most important prayer request. Each one had a very clear desire that God would lead them into a specific aspect of the Lord’s work that would accelerate the gospel and reach the unreached in Vietnam. It is rare to see such one-mindedness in the gospel. This was not rehearsed. It was on the spot! It was real!
Need I say that the airport drop was very difficult? P drove and could not linger at the curb, so he drove on, but T and B took me to security. Somehow B persuaded the guards that I needed an escort, so they allow him into the airport with me. I can’t put into words the loving, thoughtful care T provided while I was there. The tears for both of us told the story and the gratitude that went both ways. I turned to leave and could not look back until I was well past the security entrance where we waved to each other for one last time. B was so helpful at the ticket counter, making sure I would be cared for all the way to Yangon. We got within a few yards of the immigration line and B wanted one last picture of us together. He enlisted a willing stranger. The next moments were harder for him than for me because I had learned his heart, and was confident God is going to use him in a mighty way. By his own words, he felt he had gained two Paul’s in his life, and number two was now leaving. I had gained a Timothy! For those who have never been to Asian countries, please understand that it is uncommon and not part of this culture for a man to weep in public. But he held nothing back. I was thankful that security took me through the diplomat line so I would be out of sight as quickly as possible. Just as I went into the concourse, I turned to see B still peering through the glass to see me for one last time. I have said it before, but it is worth repeating, that the bonds we have in Christ far surpass earthly ties!
Paul says about Timothy that "I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare" (Philippians 2:19). Is this the degree of our love and commitment to God's work in others?
"The trouble with the average church is that the cart is put before the horse and then the pastor is told to get on the seat and drive, and of course he finds the going hard. If only we would reverse the order and accept God's plan, we would get somewhere and the going would be easy. Seek first the extension of God's kingdom world-wide, and all things will be added. God's program never fails!"
By Oswald J. Smith (The Challenge of Missions, page 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?
Please Pray: (October 3 – November 10)
1) Teaching Church Leaders using the Burmese God’s Plan for His Church in Yangon – October 27- November 7
2) Launch the new Karen God’s Plan for His Church in Maw Day Musekee – October 17-19
3) Teaching Bethany College students God’s Plan for His Church in Chiang ai - October 13-24
4) Synergy Meeting with Vietnamese Leaders in Bangkok - October 6-10
5) Strategic Planning for the Khmer God’s Plan for His Church in training Cambodian Leaders – November 1-3
6) Launch the new Vietnamese God’s Plan for His Church in Saigon – October 13 – 24
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving, pray also for us, (Tim and Sherman):
1) That God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ Col 4:2-3
2) That words may be given to us in opening our mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel Eph 6:19
3) That the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored 2 Thess 3:1 (ESV)
4) That we may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding Col 1:9
5) That we be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might Col 1:11
Below is a testimony received from a group of Lahu disciples we trained last fall using illustrations from the new revised God's Plan for His Church.
Our teaching consisted of showing them how the Gospel spread from Jerusalem (Pentecost) to the world. This is what happens when disciples, with childlike faith, take seriously the Holy Spirit and Christ, the Living Word. We have seen this happen over and over again throughout the world.
“After teaching the book of Acts, the Pastors are so happy to go out to share the Good News with the people. We dedicated the 9th daughter church on March 15, 2014. Members of the new church are from Ah Kha tribe. Your teaching is so effective. Thank God for that.”
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.
Here is a current testimony of what is happening when believers use God’s Plan for His Church manual to get them back into the Scriptures as their sole guide for personal walk, the family and the church.
“I was urgently invited to Ghana to attend the International Missions Leaders Workshop in Kumasi Ghana. The Theme for the Workshop was “MOVING FORWARD”. The director for Baptist Foreign Missions Rev. Phil Knott shared with us the Mission’s Vision and goals that is to multiply disciples, leaders, Churches and ministries that are reproducible and sustainable.
The Workshop was held because many of churches were relying on foreign support and when that supports ceased, the church fell or pastors moved to other ministry that will support him. So we were called and encourage that our churches should be self-sustainable and focus on God and the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Brother, what we have been studying from the training manual is exactly what is going on with so many pastors and churches here in Africa. We have been encourage that our churches should be self-sustaining; not money to be it lifeblood, because when money stop ministry stops. Thanks for the material that open our eyes and understanding. I took along the Training manual (GOD’S PLAN FOR HIS CHURCH), with me and I seized the opportunity to meet with pastors and church leaders from Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Mali, Togo and other African countries discussed with them the goodness and Biblical teaching of Planting and Church Renewal of the material. Having shared the introductory part of the manual many of them express their desire to be part of the study. While I was away the men studying with me in our church were busy in carrying on their studies and at times we shared our discussion on phone after our meeting.
I am going through the manual as well as a brother who has gone to Hungary with a copy of the manual. He will be back on the 26 of February, so that we can all do the completion of the material together.
It is our prayers that the Lord will give us strength and open our understanding as we study His Word to win souls for him.”
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