Looking forward with Faith

They say hindsight is 20/20.

I think it’s also more faith-filled.

It’s much easier to see and celebrate how God faithfully worked things out in the past than to joyfully anticipate how he will be resolving things in front of us.

It seems that no matter how many times we see God break through, the current circumstances can be impossible or overwhelming. Although I saw God come through beautifully in so many cases on the streets of Istanbul, it still often felt impossible or hopeless as I went out to share the good news.

It’s easy to tell roaring stories of evangelistic adventures from where I served for the last five years. It’s not so easy to look forward to how God will break through the difficulties of a new area with the same enthusiasm.

But should there be such a stark contrast in our views of the future and the past?

We grow in faith as we give glory to God and become more and more convinced that he’s mighty, with us, and working. And then we start to look ahead with the same glowing enthusiasm that we have as we hear or recount wonderful tales from the past.

Because we know that He is with us, and his faithfulness is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

“This is my story, this is my song, the theme of the stories, I’ve heard for so long God has been faithful, he will be again His loving compassion, it knows no end.”

“All I have need of his hand will provide He’s always been faithful to me.” (He’s always been faithful - Sara Groves)

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Getting ready for the future with your finances

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

In the West, we live in a society that is generally rich. And as wealth increases, it seems that talk of saving up and storing up wealth for the future increases as well.

We’d do well to listen carefully to Paul’s instructions to rich people here.

How do we store up a good foundation for the future? Through savings accounts and retirement funds? This verse would suggest that it’s actually through the reverse, through giving our money away. As we give and share, we lay up a good foundation for the future, a foundation more sure than any wealth that we could amass and hold ourselves.

How do you get ready for the future? How do you make sure you have treasure laid up as a truly firm foundation for the future? By giving your treasure away.

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” (Luke 12:32-33)

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A key to readiness? Know God is real

What a simple but profound truth that needs to sink ever deeper into our hearts and minds: God is real.

He actually exists. And he is active, listening, and involved in our world.

It’s such a basic truth, but how different someone is when they actually start to believe this, and live with this in mind.

What happens when someone believes that God will listen and help them with whatever problem they’re facing?

What happens when someone believes that God sees and cares about how they treat their mom and dad, or about how they treat their wife.

What happens when someone believes that God will save and transform people if they hear and believe the news about Jesus.

What happens?

All kinds of amazing things spring out of this very simple faith. People actually pray. When we take God to be a real actor in our circumstances, He is.

When we talk someone who really believes all this, we can’t help but be affected and spurred on to love and trust God more. It’s like holding our feet in the warm current of a river. There’s something very right, pleasing, and powerful about this thing we call faith.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because whoever comes to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those that eagerly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

We have to truly believe and depend on him, as a real person and the biggest factor in our lives. We have to see and know that we need him, and have him, active and helping out, responding and moving things as we ask.

And if we’re with him in faith, we’re ready for anything.

“The secret of faith that is ready for emergencies is the quiet, practical dependence upon God day by day which makes Him real to the believing heart.” (Hudson Taylor)

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Lessons from Bangladesh

I talked to a Bangladeshi Christian leader who was deeply concerned about how his people were attached to the western forms of church that had been handed down to them.

He told me how they learned to think it’s of upmost importance for them to build nice white churches with crosses on top, which were a big offense to the hostile Muslim community around them.

They would build these churches, and then would suffer bombings, or attacks. The buildings would be destroyed, and then would persevere in building more buildings, only to face more bombings and danger. They were holding on tenaciously to that nice white steeple church that they learned from the foreigners to build and establish, and it was wearing them out.

This Bangladeshi leader said he was always trying so hard to get his people to see that they didn’t need to build these expensive, offensive buildings. It was enough for them to be the church and meet together. But it was so hard for them to understand and accept this, after being conditioned by the years of missions work before.

“They can bomb and destroy those buildings in 5 seconds,” he would tell them, “but they can never destroy the church.”

The treasured trappings foreign workers carry with them, whether they be buildings, programs, or cultural forms, often become heavy burdens the locals bear painfully for generations.

Jesus brought something simple, so let’s carry something simple forward.

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What Jesus said about...

We’re quick to agree with what Jesus said about his death and resurrection,

and what he said about the forgiveness of sin,

about loving our enemies,

about lust and divorce,

about healing even,

but what Jesus said about money?!

It’s time we listened, because he said a lot.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)

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What do we have? What are we losing?

In some places, believers sit in solitary confinement, praying for the grace to forgive, love, and share the gospel with the one guy who’s torturing them every day.

They pray fervently to be able to make good use of tiny bit of freedom and opportunity they have.

Here in the West, we pay hundreds of dollars to go to conferences with thousands of people and scores of speakers to help us figure out how we can use our tens of thousands of dollars worth of education.

How much are we praying to make use of this boundless freedom and opportunity?

What are we doing to lose our lives for the gospel?

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48)

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Just waiting for someone...

I wanted to share another story from my friends.

One day, these two girls were walking down the street in an eastern town of Turkey, praying about which shop they should go in. They felt led into one in particular, and so they went in.

“Hello,” they said.

“Hi!” charmed the shop-lady, “where are you guys from?”

“We’re Americans.” They answered.

“Oohh” said the shop-lady, “15 years ago, I was in another city, and some missionary gave me a Bible. But I’ve never quite been able to understand it. Would you be able to explain it’s message to me?”

Of course, my friends gladly obliged.

And as they were talking 2 other women surfaced from the back, eager to get their own copy of the Bible and hear the good news.

There are millions of people just waiting for someone to show up and talk to them. They’re just waiting to meet one person who knows Jesus.

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A missionary job description: what can I do?

“I want to go overseas and live for Jesus, but what can I do?”

“I want to go serve, but what will my role be?”

In Mark 3:14 it says that Jesus chose the 12 disciples, the ones he later sent out to the nations,

  • to be with him,
  • to be sent out to preach, and
  • to have authority to drive out demons.

Let’s break down that job description and look at their roles and responsibilities… and let’s see how people can do these same things today.

  • to be with Jesus Know Jesus, spend time with him in prayer, and love God with your whole heart, soul, and mind. Enjoy the presence and direction of the Holy Spirit in leading, and just be God’s friend.

  • to be sent to preach (tell people stuff) Go out to where the people who don’t know him are, to learn to speak their language and talk to them, and talk about Jesus. Explain the truth about Jesus as he sends you into different situations and places. Just tell them what you believe, who Jesus is, and how he died and rose again from the dead.

  • to have spiritual authority over evil Break down strongholds in minds and hearts with the simple word of Christ. Cast out demons, heal the sick, and raise the dead.

Jesus picked his disciples to do these things, and the Father is still sending people today to finish the task of getting the good news told in every language and people group. (Matt 24:14) There are still a few places where people have no contact with a testimony of Jesus. He’s sending people to go and be that testimony.

Really, is it that simple?? Well, it often takes all kinds of work and planning to get into and live in these unreached places where no-one knows Jesus. And it’s vital to have a good team or partner to help us get there and stay there well. But yes, the work we do, the job description we have, can be this simple and straightforward:

Be with Jesus, talk about Him, and demonstrate the Kingdom.

“Really??” people might ask, “Is that enough to do with my life? Don’t I have to be doing something more official and intentional like ‘church planting’ or establishing a ‘ministry center’ ?” “Can I just be a person sent to know him and follow him?”

Yes you can! After all, this is the job description that Jesus gave his disciples in Acts 1:8. He said, “You will be my witnesses (ie. my people who can talk about me) in the farthest places of the earth.” Let’s not let the the job description that Jesus gave his disciples become questionable, lame, or deficient in our eyes. Let’s not start thinking that we need to have bigger and better plans than simply knowing him and making him known.

After all, it is the knowledge of Jesus that saves, not anything else that we can establish or set up. Paul talked about the gospel, the news about Jesus, bearing fruit and growing in the whole world (Col 1:5-6). So people should feel free to give themselves fully to this, and be confident that they’re doing something worthwhile.

People often worry about finding the right, effective ministry that they can join. I know I did for a very long time, acting as if everything depended on finding the perfect, successful ministry to be a part of. But if Christ is living inside of you, you are a walking ministry. It was enough for Jesus to walk into places for God to do mighty works. And guess what? He’s inside of you, walking with you! So that’s all you need. It’s not about what you think you can do. It’s about trusting that he is living inside of you and preparing good works for you to do. (Eph 2:10)

you can live a life of simply:

  • getting somewhere where people don’t know Jesus
  • learning the language and figuring out how to talk to people
  • telling people about Jesus, and doing his miracles
  • teaching and encouraging the ones crazy enough to believe to love and follow Him (in other words: making disciples)

He leads us forward with the good news of Jesus. He gives us opportunities to share the good news and make disciples. And he will build his strong, stable, unshakeable Church.

Want to go do this? Find a group that will help you go and live out this simple job description. Find people or a team who will walk with you and help you go forward into these places.

And he promised to take care of us and be with us until the very last day. (Matt 28:20)

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