This is a continuation of the report from Jonathan and his experiences in Myanmar.
Taunggyi, Shan State – The second week of my trip I had one of the largest opportunities for the gospel that I have ever experienced. I was invited to come and work with a band of 12 indigenous missionaries who are going out to plant churches in Shan State among unreached villages.
Located on the border of China, Shan State has always been a source of conflict in Myanmar due to its preservation of culture and Buddhism. It also is one of the largest unreached areas in Myanmar. This group of missionaries has decided to go to unreached villages and fulfill the call of the Great Commission.
We spent one week going through God’s Plan for His Disciples, learning what it looks like to be personally established in the gospel so we are able to teach others how to be established in the gospel. And then we started God’s Plan for His Church, and our prayer is that God will use His Plan in the missionary’s lives as they put into practice what they have learned.
Please pray that God would establish these brothers and give them a sincere hunger to do things God’s Way and RETURN to the Scriptures in the power of the Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Also, that they would value the Gospel as the “conclusion” and the “help” to reach those that have never heard of Jesus (Acts 16:9-10).
We have a three-week training starting the end of June in Yangon. Putting all these events together and seeing how God is working, causes us to believe that He is preparing indigenous disciples to reach those who have never heard the gospel, not just in Myanmar, but beyond their borders. Please let us know if you are standing with us in prayer (use the Contact Page).
This report comes from Jonathan who has just returned from Myanmar.
Tamu, Sagaing Region – I spent the first week at an orphanage and visited two missionaries. Sagaing Region is a huge area in a strategic location of Myanmar on the border of India. The city of Tamu is in the Northwestern part of Sagaing Region and is called the “gateway to India” as it is the city situated closest to India. Why is this so important? There are still 2,311 unreached people groups in India that have not yet heard the name of Jesus and the gospel of grace. Those we were training have the opportunity to go into India and reach these indigenous people. Hopefully, God will raise up more missionaries from Mynamar and neighboring countries to go into India.
The Sagaing Region is important for Myanmar and for reaching those who have never heard the gospel. Though this northern region is still rather unreached, I visited two missionaries that had just recently started spreading the gospel. In some of these villages, the government has focused funding and the building of Buddhist Pagodas to continue to propagate the idol worship of Buddha. I was so encouraged to meet the first Buddhist convert, Isaac. I also heard of three families that had recently been converted across the river. Praise God that Christ is building His Church and the gates of hell WILL NOT prevail against His work (Matthew 16:18).
I also had the extreme privilege of training students at an orphanage in Tamu for the week. The goal is that the students can be trained as Church Planters and return back to their respective villages to plant churches. They were so receptive and eager to learn from Scripture.
Pray for the expansion and maturity of this work.
“Therefore, lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.” (Hebrews 12:12–13). This verse is often quoted and used to exhort strong believers to encourage others who seem to be going through tough times; they are weak. However, we need to carefully examine these verses to understand what the writer is saying.
First, it is important to look at the context.
· We saw that we are considered runners with witnesses surrounding us and with one objective, one goal; Jesus Christ, who is also our example (12:1-2).
· We must “consider” Jesus “who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself” (12:3).
· We are to appreciate the discipline of the Lord as “training…that we may share His holiness …for…it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (12:5-11).
Second, the subject of this section has not changed. It is still about you, the runner, the son or daughter of the Father’s discipline. In verses 12-13, the subject is still YOU! It’s about “your drooping hands…your weak knees, and your feet.” You must lift up what is drooping, weak or disabled by remembering how Jesus strengthened Himself by a close walk with His Father.
Often “knees” make us think of prayer. If your prayer life is “weak or paralyzed” by something outside your relationship with the Lord, it is time to “strengthen” that part of your spiritual walk so that you “pray at all times in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18).
We will look at the “straight paths for your feet” tomorrow. For right now, the most important thing you could do is STOP what you are doing, REPENT of any weakness you have allowed, and RENEW your walk with the Lord in prayer. Lift those drooping hands in gratitude and use them as instruments to serve others.
In speaking with persons who are going through difficult trials, I often hear them ask the question, ‘when will this end?” It is natural for us to want suffering and trials to be over so we can move on with more enjoyable things in life.
But what is God’s purpose in allowing us to pass through hard times? “For they [our human fathers] disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but He [God] disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:10–11).
Notice that there is a clear purpose in discipline. This meaning of “share” is to “receive one’s part in what belongs to someone else.” This has always been God’s plan and purpose for us. Because of our tendency to place too much priority on others things, God must use discipline in our lives so our priorities change and become His.
There is one more element in all this; our willingness to be trained by the discipline. That will produce the greatest gain. The word “trained” conveys the idea of “going under a vigorous routine and control intended to increase moral strength.” Very few are willing, much less want this kind of discipline. Would you really want to miss the spiritual benefits of the Father’s discipline that produces “the peaceful fruit of righteousness?”
Right after seeing the portrait of Christ that keeps us from “grow(ing) weary or faint-hearted” (Hebrews 12:3), we have another strong instruction that is very important for our maturity and helps us keep our eye on the prize. Read these verses below and listen to God speaking to you.
“And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by Him. For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives”” (12:5–6).
Discipline of parents is usually never a pleasing thing for any child. But here we are reading about “the discipline of the Lord.” We are not to “lightly” regard His discipline. That phrase “regard lightly” means to give it “little value or look down, despise or have contempt on it.” This is often done because we fail to look at the end result of what God is doing in our lives that will ultimately bring Him glory and make our lives more fruitful.
When God touches our lives with discipline over a long period of time, we often become frustrated (“weary”) and even cynical about what we are going through. What we often don’t realize is that the Lord’s love is in what He allows us to go through. The sooner we see this, the more we will sense His support and the relationship we have as a “son.” When we understand what the Lord is doing, we will be more ready to allow the discipline to have its effect in our lives.
Are you experiencing the Lord’s discipline? He is building something of His character in you that can’t be seen yet. Trust Him and allow His correction to work.
One of the joys I have in this ministry is encouraging others to walk closer with the Lord. There were three opportunities the Lord gave me today to invest in four different people with this objective. They all struggle with issues that are difficult, but not impossible.
As I sat here at my desk praying for them, my mind was drawn to Hebrews 12. Verses 1 to 3 give us a portrait of Jesus to consider so we “may not grow weary or faint-hearted” (12:3). What are the specific things about Jesus that the writer wants us to consider?
· There are many “witnesses” who have gone before us, and they exercised “faith” in the promises of God, though they did not receive the promise of Christ in their life-time (11:40). We often think that no one has gone through troubles like ours. If you think that, read chapter 11, especially verses 32 to 40.
· We are able to “lay aside every weight and sin…and run with endurance the race that is set before us [as we] look to Jesus” (12:1). Freedom is only found in Jesus (Galatians 5:1). When we focus on the struggle against sin, we focus on the wrong thing. Freedom from the power of sin is never in ourselves. It is ONLY in the person of Jesus. LOOK TO HIM!
· Faith for the Christian begins with Jesus and ends with Jesus, because He is the Founder or Author and He is the only one who is and will perfect our faith and bring us to glory (12:2).
· As Jesus endured suffering by setting His heart on the joy that would come out of His death, so we must set our hearts on the glory we will reach after we have endured here (12:3).
Will you set the eyes of your heart on Jesus? Seeing Him will give you everything needed to endure and reach the prize.
“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink, sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us. (The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis, Harper One, 1949, page 16).
In one of the parables that illustrates what Lewis is writing about, Jesus says, “but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). They also “choke” our desires so we settle for the “weak and worthless…principles of the world” (Galatians 4:9). This is not freedom in Christ!
God is working by the Holy Spirit in these days to make followers of Jesus strong in faith so we can “stand firm in the faith” (1 Corinthians 16:13). This is being a true disciple of Jesus with the desires that come from Him. I urge you to ask the Holy Spirit to give you strong desires and put your whole heart into pursuing Christ.
Will you use these words of David as a prayer to the Lord? “With my whole heart I seek You; let me not wander from Your commandments!” (Psalm 119:10).
All that we have said up to this point over the last three days is meaningless unless we understand the value of the prize; the reward. What was it in Paul’s mind and heart that made him run this race so hard and with such determination? Read carefully the verse below.
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8). Let’s break this verse down into some phrases that give a window into Paul’s heart.
· “surpassing worth” – something of exceptional value that really can’t be measured in human terms. It points to something far superior in every respect.
· “knowing Christ Jesus” – this is an intimate personal knowledge of the person that can only be gained through close communion and conversation. For Paul, it began on the Damascus road and continued to grow richer and more real as time passed. “My Lord” confirms that this relationship was not merely objective (an idea), but very personal through experience.
· Everything else in Paul’s life he could “count…as rubbish.” It was worthless, unwanted trash that would only hinder his pursuit or obtaining the prize if he gave them any value.
· He had only one goal; “in order that I may gain Christ.” It was like making the greatest investment possible because it would bring the greatest return and reward.
My desire is to inspire you to invest in the same thing Paul did – “Christ Jesus my Lord.”
We have been thinking about what it means to “press on toward the goal” – “GLORY!” Paul and Peter have the same objective. “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10). Remember that part of Paul’s goal was to “share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death” (Philippians 3:10). But the suffering is only for “a little while.” Glory is at the end of this race and suffering will be over.
In the process of running, Peter gives us the assurance that “Christ will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you!” We often become weary, and the trials we face wear us down. This promise is for those who endure through the suffering and trials. Because Christ and His glory are the finish line of this race, it is “Himself” that runs with us to the very end. Remember Jesus’ final words to the disciples just before He ascended into heaven; “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
I was speaking with a dear friend of mine yesterday who has battled depression at various times in his life. He loves the Lord deeply and has grown in his faith over the years. But these moments of depression hit at unexpected times. I pointed him to the ministry of Jesus in Hebrews 7:25; “Consequently, He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Jesus is praying for him in those moments.
As you run toward the goal of glory, Jesus is with you and is praying for you. DO NOT GIVE UP! PRESS ON!
There is more to learn from Paul and his statement in Philippians 3:14 and other references he makes about this same principle. Let’s go back to the first words in this verse; “I press on toward the goal.” Those first three words mean that Paul was “striving energetically with a purpose!” As he says in verse 12, “I press on” knowing that he had not yet reached the goal, but he was pursuing that goal with all his energy. He would not allow other things to distract him from that pursuit.
What was the “goal,” the “one thing” that Paul was so intent on reaching. It was “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Was it just “the power of His [Christ’s] resurrection” or “the resurrection from the dead” (3:10-11)? Was there more to this “the upward call of God?” Clearly it is each of the following:
· It is “in Christ Jesus” (3:14)
· Paul also wanted to “be found in Him” (3:9)
· How? Through the righteousness from God “through faith in Christ” (3:9)
Hebrews 3:1 calls this prize “a heavenly calling.” In 1 Thessalonians 2:12, Paul “exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12).
There is no greater goal than the prize of “obtaining the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:14). What are you putting all your energy into? Does it have this kind of reward?
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