Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Higher Throne

Sometimes we are hit square between the eyes with the hard truth that life -- this life, in this world -- isn't fair.

In our more analytical moments we can rationalize this truth, theologize it, philosophize about it, explain it away. We can assess the biblical truths and understand intellectually and even spiritually that God only allows this sinful world to continue because of His patience and desire for people to repent before judgment comes. We can research and know the source of evil, understand the power of God over Satan, and be grateful for the freedom He has given us from sin's power.

But when we are face to face with wounded, hurting, hungry, war-torn, distraught individuals whose face betrays the hopelessness they feel, none of those explanations are sufficient. Sometimes, all we can do is weep with those who weep, showing the love and compassion of Christ. Sometimes the only thing that pulls us through, that keeps us holding on to Him in the midst of the suffering, is His sovereignty and the truth that this life is not all there is.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not talking about abandoning all hopes of making a difference here. I'm talking about those times that you've all experienced on the field -- when you realize that your best efforts won't be enough, that when the sea-change you pray for in your country comes it will be too late for the dying child in your arms. When you realize that you have to help someone get through today before she can make a difference tomorrow. At those times, it's great to know that the kingdoms of this earth are not the ultimate thrones.

Maybe that' s why this song struck me so much. Listening to worship music on my way back from seeing my parents for Thanksgiving, I heard this song for the first time. I share the words here with you as an encouragement to trust in God's sovereignty and in that future day when all will be made right.

May God richly bless you today.

There is a Higher Throne
Kristyn Lennox and Keith Getty
Copyright (c) 2002 Thankyou music/MCPS

There is a higher throne
Than all this world has known
Where faithful ones from every tongue
Will one day come
Before the Son we'll stand
Made faultless through the Lamb
Believing hearts find promised grace
Salvation comes

Hear heaven's voices sing
Their thunderous anthem rings
Through emerald courts and sapphire skies
Their praises rise
All glory wisdom power
Strength thanks and honour are
To God our King who reigns on high
Forever more

And there we'll find our home
Our life before the throne
We'll honour Him in perfect song
Where we belong
He'll wipe each tear-stained eye
As thirst and hunger die
The Lamb becomes our Shepherd King
We'll reign with Him

Monday, November 20, 2006

"Soak, Submit, Seek, Celebrate"

Ralph Winter's advice in studying Scripture is concisely put: "Soak, Submit, Seek, Celebrate." He puts in a memorable nutshell basic truths that can help us as we turn to God's Word each morning.

Soak: Sit before the Lord. Soak it in! While there is definite benefit in "chewing" over a choice morsel, don't neglect the equal benefit of larger doses of Scripture. Whatever you read don't just rush past it ... soak it in.

Submit: Where commands occur, submit to the Lord in obedience. When He convicts, submit in repentance. Where He guides, submit in following.

Seek: Seek His presence. Pray before, during, and after Bible study. Ask the Holy Spirit, the Divine teacher, to open it up to you. Seek understanding, seek response, seek HIM.

Celebrate: Praise Him for what He revealed and for the power to walk it out.

I'll be praying for you as you "Soak, Submit, Seek, and Celebrate" each day!

Endurance through the Word

We do live in difficult days. It shouldn't come as a surprise, since these troubles are prophesied. And yet we are never quite ready for the manifestations evil can take.

In His infinite wisdom and foreknowledge, God prepared us ahead of time for these difficult days ... and all the difficult days faced by believers past and future.

The key to endurance, He tells us, is steadfastness in His Word. Are you taking the time alone with Him, in His Word, to gain the endurance you need for your personal struggles as well as the spiritual battles you fight in prayer for your people group?

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

2 Timothy 3
1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9 But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.

10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Transformed by Glory

Isaiah 35
1 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;2 it shall blossom abundantlyand rejoice with joy and singing.The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.They shall see the glory of the Lord,the majesty of our God.3 Strengthen the weak hands,and make firm the feeble knees.4 Say to those who have an anxious heart,“Be strong; fear not!Behold, your God will come with vengeance,with the recompense of God.He will come and save you.”5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,and the ears of the deaf unstopped;6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer,and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness,and streams in the desert;7 the burning sand shall become a pool,and the thirsty ground springs of water;in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,the grass shall become reeds and rushes.8 And a highway shall be there,and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;the unclean shall not pass over it.It shall belong to those who walk on the way;even if they are fools, they shall not go astray. 9 No lion shall be there,nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;they shall not be found there,but the redeemed shall walk there.10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall returnand come to Zion with singing;everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;they shall obtain gladness and joy,and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

One of the most amazing, mysterious truths of Scripture, consistent throughout the Old and New Testaments, is that we are transformed by beholding the glory of God. Think of it! You wonder what you can "do" to make a difference where you are ... you wonder how your sleepless nights and long hours are any different than that of the governmental worker or contract employee.

And yet within you is the treasure hidden in earthen vessels ... the Holy Spirit whose job is to glorify Christ. Christ in you, the hope of glory ... the hope that the world needs.

Isaiah 35 speaks of a future day of restoration. But look closely at verse 2. In what context does the joy, fruitfulness, wholeness, purity, and restoration described in the chapter occur? It is when they see "the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God".

They see His glory when you reflect His character and His attributes, when you serve Him in love, when you reveal to them through your attitudes, actions, and words, all He has come to be to you. They see His glory when you share His Word. They see His glory in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, beloved Son, very God of very God.

It sounds so strange, and yet have we not also experienced this transformation by His glory? 2 Cor. 3:18 tells us we have: And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

My prayer this morning, as I pictured some of your precious faces during my quiet time, was that God would transform you by His glory, and that He would transform the people you love so deeply by that same glory.

"Faithful is He who calls us, and He also will bring it to pass." (1 Thess. 5:24)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Fresh Joy

Has "joy" been elusive in your life lately? Sure, you love your people group, and you are faithful to work diligently for God among them. You are meeting practical needs and offering eternal hope at every turn. Yet somewhere along the way, it began to feel like work, like a duty, rather than the delight and joy you experienced earlier. My prayer for you today is a strong helping of "fresh joy".

Isa. 29:19 The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord,and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.

"The meek" -- the ones Jesus said will inherit the earth -- are promised "fresh joy". Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, so being filled with His Spirit is certainly one aspect of receiving joy. "Meekness" is a quality Jesus possessed, so we know it is certainly not weakness. "Meekness" has been accurately described as "strength under control" -- the control of the Spirit!

Walk in the Spirit today. Let Him fill you with His presence. As you place yourself under His control, He promises "Fresh joy".

Fresh wind, fresh fire
Blow over us today
Send your Holy Spirit
To fill us as we pray
Guiding light to lead us
Fresh faith to believe
A fresh word for the morning
We bow and receive

Fresh joy, fresh joy
Drawing near to You
Fresh joy, fresh joy
Shining Your glory around
Fresh joy, fresh joy
To serve them in Your strength
Fresh joy, fresh joy
Let Your presence abound

Fresh wind, fresh fire
Blow over us today
Send your Holy Spirit
To fill us as we pray
Guiding light to lead us
Fresh faith to believe
A fresh word for the morning
We bow and receive

Fresh joy, fresh joy

(c) 2006 Rosa Edwards

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Interrupted for a lesson

Has God ever interrupted your "quiet time" for a very practical lesson? Perhaps a needy neighbor dropped by, or a sleeping child awoke with an earache ... or maybe a meal needed to be prepared.

How do you respond to such interruptions? If you're like me, you struggle with irritation. After all, my quiet time is my only down time of the day, and I need that time with the Lord to get through the challenges ahead! Ironically, it is when my quiet time is interrupted that I'm least likely to be in the frame of mind to learn an unscheduled lesson from God. Instead, I focus on what I had planned for that time and spend my efforts trying not to be irritable at the interruption.

Those experiences help me understand the disciples' hardness of heart at the lesson of the loaves and fishes. Mark 6:30-52 records the story. Don't miss the fact that the lesson of the loaves came during an interruption of their time alone with the Lord!

30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When He went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And He began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, His disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But He answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to Him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 And He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish He looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And He divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

45 Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He dismissed the crowd. 46 And after He had taken leave of them, He went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and He was alone on the land. 48 And He saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw Him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 51 And He got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

"they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened." An interruption in their scheduled time alone with Jesus held a lesson, but they did not get it. Their hearts were hardened. As I studied this recently, I asked myself, "How many lessons have I lost because my quiet time was interrupted and my heart was hard?"

My prayer for you is that you will have sensitive hearts to discern divine appointments, lessons from the Lord ... even if they interrupt your quiet time.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

What the NT's most quoted OT passage tells us about Jesus

The most quoted Old Testament passage in the New Testament is Psalm 110:1: The Lord says to my Lord:“Sit at my right hand,until I make your enemies your footstool.”

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record Jesus questioning the Pharisees' identification of the Christ as the Son of David, using this passage. Peter's first sermon in Acts 2 uses the passage to demonstrate the supremacy of Jesus over even David. And Hebrews 1 uses the passage to show the supremacy of Christ over the angels.

Why is this significant to your work on the field? Read the entire Psalm in context:

110:1 The Lord says to my Lord:“Sit at my right hand,until I make your enemies your footstool.”

2 The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter.Rule in the midst of your enemies!

3 Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning,the dew of your youth will be yours.

4 The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind,“You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

5 The Lord is at your right hand;he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.

6 He will execute judgment among the nations,filling them with corpses;he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth.

7 He will drink from the brook by the way;therefore he will lift up his head.

He rules, He reigns, and He has been exalted! He is a priest forever, interceding on behalf of believers, desiring the nations He has been given as an inheritance (Ps. 2) to worship before His throne, awaiting the day of judgment.

He is at the right hand of God Most High ... the work is finished, complete. Your work on the field is not to secure a victory, it is to announce it! Our God reigns ... and Jesus' exaltation to His right hand demonstrates the victory of the cross.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Delight in Truth: A matter of perspective

Is the task you face larger than what you know you can fulfill? Do you get overwhelmed at the number of unreached people, the miniscule percentage of funds designated for reaching them, and the cultural obstacles faced when the laborers reach the harvest?

It's time for a shift in perspective.

In "Beyond Duty", Tim Dearborn highlights focusing on "the problem" of how to fulfill the Great Commission as a human-centered viewpoint. The task is too large for us, he argues, and then expounds what we should be asking:

"Biblical priorities reflected again and again in Scripture ask us to begin instead with these questions:

  • Who is the triune God?
  • What is God doing in the world?
  • How are we to participate with God in his redemptive purposes?
Missions is ultimately not a human response to human need. The Church's involvement in mission is its privileged participation in the actions of the triune God."

Dearborn is absolute right! He goes on to state, "It is insufficient to proclaim that the Church of God has a mission in the world. Rather, the God of mission has a Church in the world. Grasp this inversion of subject and object and participation in God's mission will become a joyous, life-giving privilege. Miss it, and mission involvement will eventually degenerate into a wearisome, overwhelming duty."

It is so easy to forget that JOY is part of the 9-fold fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23-24). God desires that we "delight ourselves" in Him! Our message is one of GOOD NEWS ... news that is better than any possible problem that can ever be presented to us. "The God of mission has a Church in the world." WOW! That means that whatever you face today, the God of mission has gone before you, and equipped His people (that's you!) to handle in His name, with His power, by His Spirit, for His glory.

In "Mandate on the Mountain", Steven C. Hawthorne points out that sustained worship of Jesus in His resurrected glory began when He commissioned His disciples with the task of going to the whole world. He promised His presence, and the book of Acts is filled with examples of His presence with them and their worship of Him. The call to missions is a call to be with Him! As Hawthorne explains, "He was not sending them away from Him. He was actually beckoning them to come nearer to Him than they ever had been. He was not merely passing on some of His power....He Himself would be with them every single day until the end of the age."

So today, delight in truth. Don't be overwhelmed by the task ... instead, ask the God of mission to show you where He is working, and join Him in it. He has strategically, divinely placed you "for such a time as this"! He has promised His presence, and He will be with you today.

Matt. 28:18-20 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Life from Death - The Way of the Cross

More gleanings today from John R.W. Stott, "The Cross of Christ." You know these things already - you are living them - and yet sometimes it is strangely comforting to hear someone else put them into words. May God bless you today.

"In theory we know very well the paradoxical principle that suffering is the path to glory, death the way to life, and weakness the secret of power. It was for Jesus, and it still is for his followers today. But we are reluctant to apply the principle to mission, as the Bible does....As Douglas Webster has written, '...We can understand mission only in terms of the cross.'"

"Paul dared to write to the Corinthians: 'so then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you' (2 Cor. 4:12). For the cross-cultural missionary it may mean costly individual and family sacrifices, the renunciation of economic security and professional promotion, solidarity with the poor and needy, repenting of the pride and prejudice of supposed cultural superiority, and the modesty (and sometimes frustration) of serving under national leadership. Each of these can be a kind of death, but it is a death which brings life to others."

On the cultural gap in evangelism: "Only an incarnation can span these divides, for an incarnation means entering other people's worlds, their thought-world, and the worlds of their alienation, loneliness, and pain. Moreover, the incarnation led to the cross. Jesus first took our flesh, then bore our sin. This was a depth of penetration into our world in order to reach us, in comparison with which our little attempts to reach people seem amateur and shallow. the cross calls us to a much more radical and costly kind of evangelism than most churches have begun to consider, let alone experience."

Finally, the bottom line, quoting Zinzendorf: They know there is a God, but they need to know the Savior. "Tell them about the Lamb of God till you can tell them no more."

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

More of love ... more of the Master

I think it's just in our human nature. We want things cut-and-dried, a final answer. Flexibility is hard for us -- or at least for me!

And yet sometimes there are no easy answers. Sometimes serving and loving means the "plan" we thought we had, the "system" we so carefully set up, our all-important "structure", goes down the tubes.

I've re-learned this lesson recently through trying with my husband to help my mother-in-law get her thermostat set properly. We're in that time of year with widely varying temperatures - freezing at night, quite warm during the day. She isn't able to properly adjust her thermostat so we've been trying to set it for the variances that occur. Now, theoretically we want to have one setting - say 72 degrees Fahrenheit - and we want that to "work". But as I'm sure you've guessed, it hasn't been that easy. We still have to adapt and make adjustments ... there are so many factors besides the temperature such as her health factors that day, whether the dryer is running ... you get the idea.

So I've been reminded through all of this that there are no easy answers. Some days it "works", some days it doesn't. While it's certainly worth trying to have a "plan", that "plan" must always be secondary to love ... love meaning what is in her best interests.

Even more importantly, adjustments require us to constantly seek God. Michael Wilkins in "Following the Master" writes, "The disciples of the first century were continually having to make mental and spiritual adjustments to Jesus as He revealed Himself and his purposes to them." Or as a pastor friend put it, "I'm learning to seek more of the Master in the midst of the mess."

Have your field "plans" been disrupted? Did your to-do list today get cut short by an interruption ... a Divine appointment? What a blessing to be able to prioritize love and to see more of the Master!