Taking the Word to the World

Archive for February, 2014

Discovering Ministry in the Midst of the Stuff – Part 1

I’m working and writing on the premise that God speaks best through me what He has been speaking in me. God has been prodding me onward and helping me wade through some of the tough stuff in every day ministry.

A missionary associate recently discussed with me an AIMer (short-term missionary) that had arrived on the field. He/she felt bewildered and blameworthy he/she wasn’t doing actual “ministry.” It’s a repetitive regular restlessness among those in kingdom business.

In 1999 I visited one of the executives in his office at World Evangelism Center. I asked if it were possible to do ministry in the midst of his administrative responsibilities. He pointed to a large stack of files and said, “Ministry, every time I want to do ministry, there is all this work staring at me.”

Discovering Ministry (2)

Lest we think this is a phenomenon isolated to World Evangelism Center, or AIMers on the mission field, I wonder how many pastors feel the same way. I recall, after marrying my wife, Linda, receiving a letter from her pastor-Dad. He wondered if he was truly making a difference in the small church he pastored and was close to giving up and throwing in the towel. Thankfully, he faithfully pressed on.

Regardless of the particular aspect of ministry one is involved in, it has its own share of unexciting, undesirable aspects and assignments. It’s inescapable! Sometimes ministry is reduced to a four letter word: “W-O-R-K!” And it is repeated day after day.

“And David said unto his men, Gird ye on every man his sword. And they girded on every man his sword; and David also girded on his sword: and there went up after David about four hundred men; and two hundred abode by the stuff” (I Samuel 25:13).

Notice what a few other translations bring out:

  • Stayed with the supplies (NKJV)
  • Stayed with the equipment
  • Stayed with the baggage (ESV, NASU, NASB)

Admittedly, there are a few things in my ministry and serving the Lord that feel a whole lot like baggage to me. But, every traveler knows the frustrations of arriving at one’s destination and baggage has been delayed or lost. This worsens when one forgets or ignores packing an extra set of clothes in the carryon. Guilty!

As I started to Google those words “staying by the…” here is what popped up.

  • Staying on course
  • Staying in the Word

All involving focus. Staying by the stuff (involves focus). Simple as that or should I state it is as hard as that. Maintaining focus is never easy. It requires deliberate determination.

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13, New Living Translation).

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Heating up the Dream in a Slow Cooker Situation

Joseph is an amazing example of someone that trusted God in the midst of difficult circumstances. He held tenaciously to his God-given and God-ordained dream. It took twenty-two years but God brought it to pass. Joseph faithfully served God despite it all.

Received the dream at seventeen. Spent thirteen years in slavery and prison. Ruled Egypt seven years during the good times. Ruled Egypt for two years in famine. Then his brothers came and bowed down to him (Genesis 42:6; 43:26).

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Through it all he kept his focus on God and not on his circumstances. Whether in the pit, Potiphar’s house, or prison he always lifted up his eyes to God:

“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth” (Psalms 121:1-2).

“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Ephesians 3:20).

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1).

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

He refused to focus on his afflictions, trials, or problems.

“And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction” (Genesis 41:52).

He was totally convinced that God was in control (Genesis 50:20). God was sovereign. In everything he understood that God did so-very-reign (sovereign).

God gave him a dream. The seeming delay is hard for us to understand in our microwave society of instant gratification and answers. At times, God allows us to pass through slow cooker situations. He keeps us over the fire perfecting us. He knows we will come forth as gold. Like, Joseph the Lord can give us success in whatever we do; whatever, whenever, and wherever He leads us.

Joseph remembered, and you should too, that a God-given dream placed in a dedicated heart is destined to come to pass. You see dreams don’t die in darkness, that’s where they are developed, and their fulfillment will certainly come to light.

The Dream of Destiny

Three and one half minutes caught the attention of the world. The memorable rendezvous was January 21, 2009. It was the day that, out of obscurity, Susan Boyle, with her Celtic twang, encumbered by learning difficulties and shyness, stepped onto the stage of Britain’s Got Talent in Glasgow. She literally shocked the panel, and mocking crowd, when she started to sing eight words, “I dreamed a dream in time gone by….” One of the judges gave her the biggest yes ever awarded in three years of the contest. She captured and then liberated the hearts of millions. There have been more than three hundred million hits on the YouTube video incarcerating those short moments. Susan’s “I Dreamed a Dream” holds the global record for the most preordered albums of all time. She defied preconceptions, probabilities, and set the stage for anyone and everyone with a dream. Susan brings modern meaning to the ancient proverb, “A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men” (Proverbs 18:16).

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Susan Boyle knows little about dreaming a dream compared to the patriarch, Joseph. You remember, Joseph, right? The dreamer. Through him God taught us all a tremendous timely truth: A God-given dream placed in a dedicated heart is destined to come to pass. Dreams don’t die in darkness, that’s where they are developed, their fulfillment will certainly come to light.

The God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and YOU

Jacob received and passed on a tremendous legacy. His grandfather, Abraham, was the father of the faithful. Jacob was born a “supplanter” or one who takes the place of another. But, he eventually found his own place in God’s plan. He was chosen by God for greatness. He had a truly overcoming nature. He became father of twelve sons from which the twelve tribes of Israel descended.

Jacob passed his heritage to his children. They could serve the same true God their forefathers served; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, would be their God as well.

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“The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers” (Acts 3:13).

“Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold” (Acts 7:32).

“Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Luke 20:37).

“Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God” (Exodus 3:6).

He was their God. Now, ours too! Thanks, Jacob, for passing on the legacy! I’m sure he would want us to remember that we can progress and prevail throughout all of life’s circumstances.