Taking the Word to the World

Archive for July, 2013

A Bee or Not a Be

Recently I was asked by a pastor friend to write a letter or words of encouragement to his son who was feeling his call into ministry. My words would be coupled with those of other leaders into a special book for the young man’s upcoming birthday celebration. Here’s what I wrote provided in hopes it will strengthen you in your ministry journey as well.

My rendition of an old cliché says, let me put a “be” in your bonnet or a “be” in your cap. No mistake there. I actually meant “be” instead of “bee.” If you were wearing a hat and a bee flew into it, you’d be focused on that bee. It would—excuse the pun—really be “bugging” you. It would immediately become something you were passionate about. You wouldn’t be able to get it out of your mind and off your head. It would become your number one obsession and intricate part of your mission in life. It would be something you want and by all means you would do just about anything to get it. Now. Perpetually. A lifetime goal!

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But, I’m not talking about a “bee” but “be.” The same applies. When you decide you want to “be” something for God it becomes paramount; your one burning desire. It is your focus, passion, and mission. You won’t be able to get it out of your head, your heart, or your spirit. It will consume you. So, life becomes a little like what Shakespeare said in Hamlet, “To be, or not to be: that is the question.”

Some spend a lot of time on where God wants them to “go.” They are concerned with “location.” Some spend ample time on what God wants them to “do.” They are grappling for a “vocation.” Both are important and have their place in God’s plan. However, I suggest the majority of time should be poured into what God wants us to “be.” Often we view “calling” as what we ought to do when “calling” is more about what we ought to “be.” When the people of Antioch studied the believers, they called them “Christians.” It had little to do with their location or vocation, but a whole lot to do with their lifestyle. They had become Christ-like!

After serving God for more than thirty years I have a burning, daily desire to “be” on the inside what I profess to “be’ on the outside. I’m not talking about letting up on outward standards of righteousness and holiness. God forbid. But, it seems easier to have everything right on the outside and yet still struggle with the battle on the inside. God is interested in character; what we are when no one is watching. With the Apostle Paul I pray for you “…to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16, NKJV). Win the battle. It takes a daily sacrifice. When you fall and fail, get up again, brush yourself off, and keep moving on the journey.

I don’t like to hear or use the word “hypocrite” and I most certainly don’t want to “be” one. A hypocrite is a fake, counterfeit, and someone that pretends. It comes from the Greek and refers to play-acting; someone that hides behind a mask. “Be” genuine, vulnerable, and the real deal. Practice what you preach. Better still, preach what you practice.

Scrolling down through Titus 2 I am amazed with the number of times “be” is mentioned. Here’s just one: “Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us” (Titus 2:6-8, NASU).

An unknown author mentioned, “’Your task…to build a better world,’ God said. I answered, ‘How? The world is such a large, vast place, and there’s nothing I can do.’ But God in all His wisdom said, ‘Just build a better you.’” That is a journey that takes a lifetime.

Photo by Shawn Caza

Five Keys to Spreading the Gospel Globally

This weekend finds me reading, relaxing, remembering and writing. I just finished an intriguing, interesting, inspiring, informative, innovative book entitled Movements that Change the World by Steve Addison. The subtitle is even more captivating “Five Keys to Spreading the Gospel.” Even at thirty-five or is it fifty-three (?) I’m still desperate to see the Gospel spread like wildfire throughout the globe. I remain convinced my destiny and yours, with God’s enablement, is to change the world.

The author unveils the essential elements required of any movement desiring to impact their world. There are only five. I will share them briefly with you. These dynamics apply in whatever setting you find yourself: a local church, church planting, or our global missions’ endeavors anywhere and everywhere.

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1. White-hot faith. A saint on fire for God provides the energy and fuel to spread the Gospel. Like Jeremiah professed: It’s like fire shut up in our bones. It’s got to get out before it burns out. Changed people, change others. Practicing spiritual disciplines keep us red-hot or white-hot—whichever—I’m talking about being on fire for God. The fire fell at Pentecost, became our heritage, and the smoking embers need to be stirred up daily. It started in the midst of prayer, is fueled by prayer, and spreads through prayer.

2. Commitment to a cause. Movement emerges when people commit to a cause. It dies; ceases to exist when people don’t care anymore. To inspire commitment; embody commitment. You are reproducible. Care. Be committed! There is no greater cause or commission on the face of the planet that exceeds the call to take the Word to the world.

3. Contagious relationships. At the very beginning of this chapter in the book I wrote in enormous letters: CONNECT. Don’t forget it. We need to connect, first with God, and next to others. Ministers, missionaries, and members make connections when they meet with people asking them to be partners. That continues as we go to the field and endeavor to connect with the team on location, the indigenous churches, and those we reach and teach. Like a virus the Gospel spreads through close relationships. Steve Addison claims, “the most reliable predictor of conversion is relationships, especially pre-existing positive relationships.” To grow we must develop relationships with outsiders. March into the social world around you! Be a cross-cultural connector; a relationship builder. My pastor said recently, “We connect people to God and God to people.” So true!

4. Rapid mobilization. Mentor others. Mobilize members to become involved in the mission. Grow leaders and you grow the organization. There is no time to waste when we are about the King’s business.

5. Adaptive methods. We don’t have to be carbon copies of each other. We can pursue our mission with methods that are diverse, effective, flexible, and reproducible. The mission commission has a threefold reality. There is the message, the messenger, and the methods. The message remains the same. Methods vary. And you are the messenger. Yes. You! We continue to give a clear and certain sound concerning our unchanging message and mission while constantly changing methods to fit the need and culture.

I remember our beloved Brother Kenneth Haney once reminded us we need to pay the price for revival. He called us back to the preaching and way of the cross. Self-denial is the way to the heart of this world. He told a story of a communist boy, standing on a street corner, with tattered clothes, propagating communism. Someone walked by and said, “You’re paying a big price for communism!” The boy responded, “When you’re changing the world, no cost is too great.” It’s worth the challenge and cost of spreading the Gospel globally.

You are changing the world!

The Blessings of Open Hand

“I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

Admit it or not we live in a prosperity-seeking society. Few, if any, possess a desire for poverty (me included). What is the secret to prosperity? Sorry. There are no quick fixes that effortlessly transport you from rags to riches or poverty to prosperity.

Prosperity and blessings are based on God’s unchanging principles. He provides the promises and the conditions. He stands ready to act or should I say, “react.” God is waiting for us to act in obedience. Like any other contract, two parties are involved. Both have responsibility to fulfill.

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Rev. Nick Sisco mentions two facts in his lesson “Pursuing Principles; Possessing Promises.”

  • God promises. Man possesses.
  • Most of God’s promises are conditional.

He goes through an impressive list of scriptural promises where he shows if we do our part, then God fulfills His promises now. Check it out with 2 Chronicles 7:14-15.

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. NOW mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attentive unto the prayer that is made in this place.”

Someone has offered this advice.

  • If you wish to be poor—grasp.
  • If you wish to be needy—hoard.
  • If you wish to be rich—give.

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8, NIV).

The principle: “it is more blessed to give than to receive” is a close brother to “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

Our world and culture thinks, “It is more blessed to receive than to give.” God’s wisdom is the opposite. Paul quoting the words of Jesus in Acts 20:35 provokes a question. Why is it more blessed to give than to receive?

“Lord, bless those that have to give and those that have not…” Ever hear anyone pray over the offering like that? It is a deficient, pointless prayer. God does not promise to bless those that give and those that do not give the same. He blesses those that give.

Try: “Lord, bless those that have given, and for those that do not have to give; bless them so that they can give.”

Giving releases the flow of God’s blessings on the giver. A stream that is not flowing will become stagnant. In giving, there needs to be an outflow before there can be an inflow. Your generosity flows out, and God’s blessings flow in.

Consider this. A person must breathe out in order to breathe in. It’s the only way to stay alive. There is only so much breathing in you can do before you’ll explode, smother or collapse. Outflow determines inflow.

David Holdaway in his book Never Enough: How to Achieve Financial and Spiritual Breakthrough explains we are born “with fingers curled and grasping, crying and clutching for what we want.” He advises that we “walk through life with open hands, learning to give, so we are in a place to receive. Clenched fists make it impossible for us to receive what God wants to give us. Only to the extent that we open our hands will we be in a place to receive.” After all, poverty is keeping what we have with clenched fists, fearing that if we give, we will have nothing. To break out of the poverty bondage the opposite spirit must be employed.

Holdaway tells of a farmer known for his giving. The man said, “I just take my shovel and shovel into God’s barn, and He takes His shovel and shovels into my barn. I have discovered that God has the bigger shovel.”

Speaking of barns: “Honor the Lord with your capital and sufficiency [from righteous labors] and with the firstfruits of all your income; [Deuteronomy 26:2; Malachi 3:10; Luke 14:13,14.] So shall your storage places be filled with plenty, and your vats shall be overflowing with new wine. [Deuteronomy 28:8]” (Proverbs 3:9-10, AMP). Give and your barns will be filled with plenty and your vessels will be overflowing. No wonder churches proclaim, “Offering time is blessing time!”

Get the picture? Outflow determines inflow. Open hands beat clenched fists. You have a little spoon. God has a huge shovel. You are blessed to be a blessing. When you bless, you receive a blessing.

“If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted…Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs…Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to” (Deuteronomy 15:7-10, NIV). I hoped you noticed the: if, then, and now promised in those verses. It’s all in the contract.

photo credit: Artotem via photopin cc

Like Never Before – A Guest Post by Melinda Poitras

By Melinda Poitras

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I asked You to make me strong
I forgot that You walk in perpetual paradox
I forgot that strength doesn’t need
You 
So strength is weakness
Weakness is strength
You knew what I meant
And you made me just “weak” enough to do the right thing
Thank You

I asked You to make me happy
I viewed happiness as some mysterious distant destination
Naturally assuming I would one day wake up and be there
Happiness forgets You
Happiness can stand alone
You knew what I meant
And you made me just miserable enough to experience true joy
Thank You

I asked You to be near to me
I wanted You to come here
Fill in the space around all I was holding
Emptiness is full
Wounds are counted faithful
And You knew what I meant
So you broke my heart just enough – to open it
Thank You

I am so impossibly in love with You that everything is pink
Because You do exactly what I ask – when You don’t

“The songbirds keep singing, like they know the score
And I love You, I love You, I love You – like never before.”

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