Saturday, January 27, 2007

Lessons from Obscurity

For all the honor of the field worker in God's eyes, to the eyes of the world you are relatively obscure. Even within the church, few can name more than a handful of you by name -- and if you limit that to those currently on the field, the number dwindles more. Where God is awakening a church to His kingdom purposes the interest in general prompts prayers for "the workers" and even for the specific regions ... but to much of the church, you are nameless and faceless. Loved, respected, even idealized ... but obscure.

You may struggle with that from time to time. Like the one who returned home from 25 years on the field who happened to be on the same boat with a dignitary who was welcomed home on red carpet while he and his wife had no one to meet them, you may wonder about your relative importance. (You probably know the story: his wife reminded him that he didn't have a homecoming welcome because "you're not home yet".)

I too have struggled with relative obscurity. In my pre-Christian days I had huge ambitions ... selfish ambitions. My dreams and ambitions changed after I became a Christian, and He has purified me consistently to remove the "selfish" part (an ongoing process) ... but the desire to do something "big" for the kingdom has remained. Yet I often feel quite obscure as I can pretty easily count the number of people within my small sphere of influence.

Yet somehow, God in His wisdom has used this for my good and His glory. One day, sitting at my mother-in-law's house and praying over this very subject, I found myself writing down my words to God. He didn't need me to write them down, of course ... but He knew I would need them. I found them again today and I share them as a fellow traveler who is learning the blessings of obscurity. For as I decrease, He increases. True significance is not what I do, but how I let Him live through me. May this cry of my heart encourage your heart today.

Lessons from Obscurity

I asked You to give me something to do for Your glory, something grand and magnificent.
You gave me a wounded child and said "Believe".

I asked You for more, for a grander task.
You gave me a husband with dreams and said "Hope".

I wanted to reach even higher and sought a broader place to serve.
You gave me a sick mother-in-law and said "Love".

The bigger the vision you have given me for the world
The more you remind me that faith, hope, and love begin at home.

I have the faith to do big things for You.
Do I have the faith to be obscure?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Whose Rights?

In free western societies, the heavy emphasis on "rights" is sometimes hard to swallow ... and easy to get caught up in. It is easy, even in Christian circles, to think of "my" rights. Those of you who are on mission with God have learned, probably the hard way, that "my" rights are consumed into the will of God. He has the right to ask me to lay down "my" rights.

But Scripture does talk about "rights" that we are to fight for. No, not our own rights ... He asks us to lay those down out of love. But in one of many passages that address this matter, Proverbs 31:8-9 asks us to fight for the rights of the destitute, the poor and needy, those who cannot speak for themselves:

"Open your mouth for the mute,for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously,defend the rights of the poor and needy."

Earlier in verse 5, kings are warned not to get drunk "lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted."

Wherever you are today, you have a chance to fight for the rights that God calls us to stand up for. I know those of you on the field seek to do this daily. May we on this end of the task find the heart to see the significance of this aspect of your work, as you touch the heart of God by helping those whom no one thinks of when they mention "rights". As Kenneth Cragg writes,
"The meaning of the Church is more often 'caught' than taught. Too many theologians and ecclesiastics have gone astray in the past by seeking to locate the true Church, when they should have sought simply to be it. In the end, the Church will not so much identify itself by description, as be identified by others in recognition." (The Call of the Minaret, p. 301).

Let's seek to be the church today.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

What is revival?

In my readings this week I found this awesome quote from John White. He says that revival is "an action of God whereby He pours out His Holy Spirit, initially upon the church, and it comes as an alternative to His judgment which is about to fall on teh church and on the secular world." John Wimber notes that "Revival and refreshing come because the church is at a low ebb ... God doesn't revive people who have it all together. He revives people who are hungry, thirsty, weak, naked, blind, and less than spotless."

In other words, when we're looking pretty rough, and judgment is near, we are prime candidates for REVIVAL!

Let that encourage you today as you wonder what God could possibly do ... and then pray for Him to do what only He can!

When the glory of God comes

I know you pray for God's glory to be revealed to your people group. I know you long for the day when praise to Him will fill the earth. Go with me for a moment to that place in the future when it happens ... when it's real. What will it look like when the wilderness and dry land you are in today see the glory of the living God? Isaiah 35 gives us a picture:

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 Godwill 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.

In that day your land will see:

* Joy (vv. 1-2)
* Fruitfulness (vv. 1-2)
* Wholeness (vv. 5-6)
* Refreshing (v. 7)
* Holiness (vv. 8-9)
* Restoration (v. 10)

What should you do in the meantime! Verses 3-4 make it clear: Believe God!

I pray for your nations, your people, YOU, to see the glory of God. I pray that in your spiritual deserts you would see His glory. Seeing His glory is transformational!

2 Cor. 3:18 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.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

A prayer from an Indian believer

I have been so blessed to read devotional writings from non-western Christians. One that really stuck with me is N.V. Tilak, a high-caste Hindu who became a Christian in India in the late 19th century. Tilak had a grasp of contextualizing the truths of Scripture for an Indian audience and pushed for a truly "Indian" indigenous worship of Christ. This poem is written in a common Indian style but captures a truth we must all learn: we must decrease and let Christ increase. Enjoy!

The Lowest Room
by N.V. Tilak

Grant me to give to men what they desire,
And for my portion take what they do slight.
Grant me, Lord, a mind that doth aspire
To less than it may claim of proper right.
Rather, the lowest place, at all men's feet
That do Thou graciously reserve for me.
This only bounty I would fain entreat,
That Thy will, my God, my will be.
And yet one other boon must Thou bestow;
I name it not ... for Thou dost know.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Appropriate Wisdom

It's one of the most common themes in Scripture, but it bears repeating: God is full of wisdom ... He IS wisdom. What I love most, though, is that His wisdom is appropriate for every situation.

Isa. 28:23-29: Give ear, and hear my voice; give attention, and hear my speech. Does he who plows for sowing plow continually? Does he continually open and harrow his ground? When he has leveled its surface,does he not scatter dill, sow cumin,and put in wheat in rowsand barley in its proper place,and emmer as the border? For he is rightly instructed; his God teaches him. Dill is not threshed with a threshing sledge, nor is a cart wheel rolled over cumin,but dill is beaten out with a stick,and cumin with a rod. Does one crush grain for bread?No, he does not thresh it forever; when he drives his cart wheel over it with his horses, he does not crush it. This also comes from the Lord of hosts; he is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom.

Our human limitations want us to make a 'one-size-fits-all' rule for something ... especially we Americans love to standardize! But look at the examples God gives ... the farmer doesn't harvest every crop the same. It is no accident that God chose this analogy for His wisdom.

God gives wisdom to handle each situation appropriately - whether plowing, sowing, or harvesting. Trust Him to grant wisdom in your ministry. If it doesn't look like it did the last time, or like that of others you know - test it against Scripture and if it is not unscriptural, consider that God, who sees and knows all, understands the intricacies of your situation and tailors His wisdom appropriately.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Why Prayer?

You are on the field, so you know that prayer works. You may have even commented, "I don't know why, but things happen when I pray that simply don't happen when I fail to pray." I've noticed the same thing!

Over the past several years God has helped me develop somewhat of a "theology of prayer". What I share here are notes I keep in the front of my prayer journal as a reminder of why I take that time each morning. Although I don't have the Scriptures noted, I jotted each one down after discovering it in Bible study times (and some day will formally write them down). May God help you learn from what He has taught me as you get a glimpse into my prayer journal.

The Purpose of My Prayer Life

1. Dependence on God. Prayer serves as a reminder that it's not up to me to solve the problems around me.

2. Humility. Prayer reminds me how many things only God can do.

3. Glory of God. God is glorified when we ask and He answers. Here is the power of united prayer: The more people who ask, the more glory God gets as the answer is passed along.

4. Theology. Prayer is where theology meets reality. When I turn Scripture into prayer, I come to grasp the doctrine better.

5. Faith. Prayer helps me to grow in faith.

6. Prayer gives me the mind of Christ.

7. Praying God's promises is His means of allowing me to share in the victory that is certain.

8. Power. Prayer gives me power as I walk in obedience.

9. Joy. Isa. 65:7 tells me there is joy in the house of prayer.

Housekeeping Notes

First, I want to thank those of you who regularly read (or check) this blog. I pray for God to use these few words to encourage you. I appreciate your patience in this endeavor.

Second, I want to let you know about my plan for posting this year. I have become convinced through prayer that God definitely wants me to continue this blog and will continue to guide me in what to put on here. My goal is to post 3 times a week. Two of these will be the devotional-type posts a previously, and the third will be a summary of my studies for the preceding week.

Most of you know that I am working on a Master's Degree in Global Civilization through William Carey International University. (You can access the information through the link on the blog.) Each week I spend several hours studying Scripture, Hebrew and Greek, and my textbook articles on missions, church history, and the relationship to the cultures and civilizations of the world. Currently I am studying the era of the early church. I feel that some of this might be helpful to you (or at least interesting) and so plan to start making my weekly "summary lesson" one of my posts. You'll find that most likely on Mondays.

I would appreciate your prayers in these endeavors! Blessings to you ... you are all a blessing to me.