Just one little coal...

What do you do when there’s just one tiny coal left burning in a fire-pit, surrounded by unlit or extinguished firewood?

You blow on it.

You push out long, forceful breaths, again and again. You aim all your breath straight at it until it glows brighter and brighter, and keep working at it until that coal is hot enough to ignite the wood around it.

So what happens when you have just one or two servants of Christ walk into a big pile of lost, unreached people?

Doesn’t God blow on those servants with his Holy Spirit in the same way? Isn’t he eagerly working to start flames, and ignite the piles of dead wood around these precious little coals?

It’s ok if you yourself don’t feel that dynamic or effective. It’s ok if you feel like you’re just one little coal, with only a little heat somewhere deep inside.

When we step into unreached places, we get transformed and burn with a strength we never knew we had. That’s because God’s blowing on us, and he’s eager to start a fire.

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Can I be a missionary AND get married?

Yes. But it’s a lot harder to get married and then become a missionary.

You need to get connected with somebody who shares your passion to lose everything and waste your life in places where almost no-one knows Jesus. You can’t drag someone along in that kind of life, no matter how supportive or submissive they are.

If you’re going to be a missionary, your spouse has to be someone who holds the missionary call as their core desire, and actually lives it out. It can’t just be someone who talks about it or agrees with it. So many people talk about how passionate they are about missions, about how excited they are to go, but few of them actually go and persevere for years.

There’s a huge difference between someone who talks about being willing to go, and someone who’s a proven worker.

If you’re going to get married, you need someone who will joyfully run with you towards the same goal, through all kinds of nasty, trying circumstances. You need someone who will thrive on God’s passions in dry, thirsty, and lonely ‘pioneer’ places. Only God can set up that kind of match, so I say it’s best to take your hands off and avoid trying to make it happen.

If you want to go, don’t wait around wondering if that guy or girl will follow you into the mission field. Don’t get romantically involved or emotionally attached to someone who may or may not go. Just go, let go of everything, and go! Trust God to miraculously connect you with someone else who’s fully committed and happily living out the call. It’ll most likely happen out on the field.

Don’t wait to get married before you become a missionary. If you wait for marriage you may never get to go. First become a missionary and go. Then let God get you married, if that’s what’s he thinks is best.

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Why so happy?

Why does a pregnant mother rejoice, knowing that she’s going to face terrible suffering in birthing, and then years of trouble in raising her child?

Why does a missionary jump for joy the moment he gets into a place where he knows he could suffer, and possibly die?

How can someone be so giddy they’re almost beside themselves when their at the beginning of some painful new journey?

Probably because the heart knows that something inexpressible beautiful and valuable is being formed. And the glory of this new creation far outstrips the momentary pain.

“let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

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The Pinnacle of Ministry

What was the pinnacle of Jesus’ ministry? What was his most effective, glorious moment? When did he have his biggest audience, and make the biggest impact?

It was the on the cross, when he was stripped almost naked, and labelled as a criminal. It was when with his bones hanging on big nasty nails, and he could barely breathe. It was when being mocked and spat on, totally misunderstood and despised.

He didn’t reach the peak of his ministry by getting more and more respected, established, and powerful. He didn’t get there by amassing resources and money.

He got there by becoming weak and more pathetic and embarrassed. He got there by losing absolutely everything, even the robe they gave him to mock him.

And we follow in his footsteps. That’s the way that we get to influence as well.

“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master.” (Matt 10:24-25)

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Having second thoughts...

Walter J. Ciszek followed a call to Russia around World War II, and suffered greatly for 23 years in Soviet prisons and labour camps. In his book ‘He Leadeth Me’, he explains the second thoughts and doubts he had to deal with as he was about to make the dangerous leap into the call he’d felt for so long.

“Reason and rationalizations boil through your mind. There are present and future responsibilities toward family and friends to think of, thoughts of the good to be done at home or in other possible ways of serving God and man, mistrust about the motives swaying the mind now this way and now that, doubts about one’s abilities to live up to the call (and even about the call itself), vague fears for the future and very real fears of making a mistake right here and now, knowing a decision must be made and yet knowing, too, that it involves a commitment from which there can be no turning back, something that will change the whole course of your life. Men faced with the possibility of a new and perhaps better job, women considering a proposal to marry, parents planning a move of one sort or another, teenagers trying to decide their future in a changing world–all knowing the troubling turmoil of doubts and fears, of competing reasons and of answers, that can afflict the mind and paralyze the will in such a situation…

…Abraham, called by God to leave behind everything he knew and cherished in order to set out for an unknown land on the strength of a vague promise, must have known the full force of such counterarguments.”

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Understanding his suffering...

As a young man enters the trials of fatherhood, his love and appreciation for his own father grows.

In the same way, as we start to suffer with Christ, our love and appreciation grows for our own saviour grows. We appreciate his sacrifice and the pain that he went through more as we begin to feel it ourselves. And so our intimacy and affection grows.

Christ’s sufferings grows sweeter as we share in them. His sacrifice becomes more beautiful as we live it out.

“I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship sf sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil 3:10-11)

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Separate, that's a pretty wonderful word

As I wrote in the last post, the call to be ‘seperated’ for the gospel is pretty harsh. Running towards harvest fields full of unreached people often involves losing a lot.

But there’s a whole other side to this: Along with this painful cutting off and devastating loss we have increbible promises of blessing and provision.

Being called out, and eseperated to live for the gospel means losing a lot.

It also means gaining a whole lot more.

“I tell you the truth … no one who has left brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields–and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)

We need to believe these words just as much as we believe that Jesus died for our sins, and just as much as we believe that he rose again from the dead. We need to stake our lives and futures on these precious promises.

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Separate, that's a pretty harsh word...

“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2)

The word used here for set apart here is aforizo (ἀφορίζω).

That same word is used to describe the angels separate the wicked and the righteous at the end of the age. (Matt 13:49)

…and for the shepherd separating the sheep from the goats. (Matt 25:32)

It’s used to talk about people excluding and ostracizing persecuted people in Luke 6:22.

… and to describe how Paul walked away from people who were obstinate and publicly maligning the Way.

That same word, aforizo is used in 2 Cor 6:17, where we read again the command to “come out from them and be separate.”

…and it’s used in Acts 2:12 to describe how Peter would draw back, separate himself from the Gentiles and avoid hanging out or being seen with them.

Later on, in the early church, it was used to describe the action of excommunicating the someone from the church, and barring them from fellowship.

It can even mean ‘to banish.’

This Greek word has even entered everyday Turkish speech, and to this day people use it to describe a decisive, deliberate exclusion or cutting off ties with someone.

Aforizo is a pretty harsh word.

But that’s the word that the Holy Spirit used to pry Paul and Barnabas away from their normal life and fellowship, and send them off into the nations.

It’s the word that Paul uses when he talks about being “set apart” for the Gospel in Romans 1:1.

And God is still calling people out in the same way today. Most of the time, people don’t just ‘end up’ in the harvest fields in places where no-one knows Christ. They have to deliberately let go, be released of everything, and move! People need to be set apart, cut off, even ripped away from their current family, work, and ministry involvements, so they can live for the work God has for them.

We have to abandon many good and beautiful things to get to His best.

This “setting apart” can be quite difficult. People have to say goodbye to their beloved communities. Young parents have to take their children away from their grandparents for years at a time. Men often have to let go of their businesses or livelihoods. Many need to leave critical, thriving ministries, or walk away from pressing needs in their home church. None of this is easy.

But the reward, God’s glory in the nations, is worth it all!

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