Tuesday, September 26, 2006
The dreams from the enemy
This man has fought lots of spiritual wars, but never really learned to use his weapons. In many ways he lives his life in the desert of self-centeredness and pity. Although there were others in the room that were well grounded in the scriptures, I responded by telling him that his dream was of the enemy. I told him that this was the enemy's favorite trick. He loves to tell believers that they are guilty. The Holy Spirit will never tell us that we are guilty without also telling us what we are guilty of.
The goal of the enemy is to tear us down, make us feel and become useless. He wants us to believe that we have no value. If he can get us chasing our non-existent guilt, he has won the battle. He has no power to take our salvation, change our status, or even make us sin. He has no power over our will at all. Although he can, and usually does lie to us to make us see our circumstances through his twisted glasses. This is an attempt to keep us off track and unproductive.
The Holy Spirit wants us to repent from an act, or attitude that breaks our fellowship with the Father. He wants us to return to the fullness of the joy found in Him. His purposes are always redemptive. His plan for us is found in Exodus 19:5, and 6. Two conditions: if we obey his covenant (get saved) and listen to His voice (Jesus said that His sheep hear his voice) we will be (three promised benefits) a priesthood of believers, His special treasure over all the earth and a clean people.
I shared with my friend that he should denounce the dream, and acknowledge that it was from the enemy and ask the Father to take it away.
We are often the mouth peace that the enemy uses to harm our brothers and sisters. If we participate with the Holy Spirit, our goals will be redemptive toward our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Whereas the lips of deceit work ruin.
Just a thought for today.
Friday, September 22, 2006
one day in the life of a sower
Last week after the Bible study, I met a man named Ramon. He is the accountant for a chain of bakeries in our city. After my Bible study, I would go there and eat an impanada and drink some orange juice. Although I didn't go to the 6AM Bible study today, I did go to the bakery and worked on memorizing a story for an upcoming camp next week. While I was there, Ramon came in and sat at my table. He had more questions than time to listen. He wanted to know why we were here, where our church was, how long we have been here, and how long we would stay. He wanted to know why we chose Paraguay, what we liked and didn't like about the country.
I have learned that self exposure is a pathway to trust. When we reveal ourselves, the people are more likely to accept us. When Ramon ran out of time, he left and said as he left until next time. It appeared that he was open to a friendship. I told him that my goal was to organize small groups and lead the into a discovery time with the Bible. He said that it would be difficult between now and February because of holidays and vacations. He is not a believer.
After I finished, I spent a large amount of time walking the streets, praying and visiting with a few that I know. I also worked more on the story that I will present at the camp next weekend. The story is long, and the time is short.
I also visited with a couple who just gave birth to another son, then I went to visit with a Christian who needs to follow the Lord in obedience. We talked about not forsaking the gatherings of the saints Heb. 10:25, and also the difference in how we are to have joy instead of strife.
This afternoon, we had a birthday party to attend. We met the couple shortly after our arrival to the country. They have three children, the youngest is three months old. Typically, birthday parties for young children are women's work. So I was the only guy there for most of the party. As darkness settled, some of the fathers/husbands appeared, and I had the opportunity to talk with a relative of the couple. He is frustrated with his church members because they are not reaching the country for Christ. I invited him to start a small group meeting in a home or public place. I anxiously await his answer.
Thanks for taking an interest in my ministry, thoughts and life.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
It's all about Grace
We sin. The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death. Death means eternal separation from God. Because in our natural state we are sinners, justice would be eternal separation from God in a place of perpetual torment. The Bible calls this place hell. Justice would allow none of God's benefits. No comfort, no life in this world. Only pain, suffering and separation from God. This is justice. None of us really want justice, it would mean that we pass eternity suffering without so much as the next breath of comfort.
Mercy is a little different in that it would remove the punishment. Mercy is not getting what we do deserve, mentioned above. It would have been mercy for the Lord to just stop our existence at death like the animals so that we would not have to pay our own sin debt. That would be mercy. When a person appears before a secular judge and they are guilty as sin, and caught red-handed. They sometimes present themselves as ignorant of the law, not being of sound mind such as insane, or as having acted in self defense so as to receive mercy from that judge. Their goal is not to win a settlement because they know there is no way this will happen but rather to just not have to pay the price, of their crime, or maybe pay a less price than is just for their crime. Remember, our crime is sin, and the sentience has already been established, torment.
The longer that I work with people, the more I am convinced that it's all about grace. I am sure that many of you have heard that old time favorite acrostic: God's Riches at Christ's expense. However, I am not sure that the acrostic really does the definition justice. It is a great acrostic, but we quickly miss the impact of God's riches. So often, we think of the promise that we will be in heaven when we die, and we will not go to hell. I would suggest that grace is much more than that. Grace is all the good that we get which we do not deserve. Grace does not start with our death.
Grace started when God chose to teach Adam to offer sacrifice for sin, and has been given to every one who has ever had blood flow through their veins. In our case, He demonstrated his grace at our birth, when we took the first breath. God loved us. God, who had formed us in the womb and marked our days and knew our thoughts before we thought them, and words before we spoke them. He has graced us with our childhood, memories, caregivers, and lots of stuff. He has graced us with friends, a sharp mind so as to learn English, Spanish and several different variations of both. He has graced us with a good job, with lots of benefits and supervision. He has graced us with excellent health care, dental care and insurance to cover our stuff. He has graced me with two wonderful boys who love Him, and us. He has graced us with influence as Americans, and a culture that has taught us to take responsibility for our actions. We have so much.
God has graced us with the privilege of being called by His name, and being joint heirs with Jesus Christ. Our working with Him in His harvest is a grace gift. As members of the body of Christ, we have been graced with prophets, evangelists, musicians, administrators, those who serve, those who show mercy, those who have a gift for languages and those who encourage us and others to keep on keeping on. We even have been graced with gifts ourselves to give to the church where we serve.
For some of us, we are graced with the privilege of seeing lots of people come to the father as a result of our ministry. What grace. What a gift from the Father.
For others, we are graced with the privilege of suffering for the cause of Christ, knowing that one day we will receive a reward. The key is to remember the grace of our Lord.
As we walk in His grace, we produce fruit. I am not talking about disciples necessarily, but rather Gal 5: fruit. This is the test. This is our destiny to produce love, joy peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There are no laws forbidding these things, and there are no substitutes for them. If we have these attributes in our life, and are producing this fruit, it really doesn't matter what else happens, because we recognize the grace of our Lord is much more than just reigning with Him after our death.
BTW: we will reign with Him as soon as the test -this life -is over to the level of our faithfulness here. Be careful. Remember the parable that Jesus told found in Matthew 20: 1-16. He said that the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out 6 o'clock AM, 9 o'clock in the morning, around noon, then again 3PM and 5PM to hire laborers for his vineyard. 8 “So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ 9 And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. 11 And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ 13 But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”
His reign will have no end! The best is yet to come, and it will likely not fit our current standard of fairness. But be glad that we are under grace, and not mercy or worse, law!!
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
practical application of the Peter Principal for Missionaries
I suppose that one could make a case for competency within our field of work. Maybe, some of my colleagues could say that they have no need for anything. Maybe, they can pull emotional strings, creatively exercise control over the people and maybe get the statistical information that they are looking for, to satisfy their requirements, and consciences. However, this person would be very obvious to everyone around him. I suppose one example is the guy who gives the orders for people to make decisions for Christ, instead of giving invitations. I suppose the bottom line is motives. If the motivation is to look good, feel good or impress others, we have yet to practice the Peter principle. God has called us to much more.
We are called to be completely void of self, even as our Master was. There is no room for me to do my own thing, whether a missionary or a factory worker. We are called to be in right relation with the Father, and join Him in what He is doing. Basically that means that we -maybe better stated I -need to admit incompetency. There is nothing I can do in order to bring about a CPM. Nothing.
My God is all powerful. He is all knowing, and fully capable of bringing about a CPM with or without me, or anyone else for that matter. There were many who rejected Jesus, and the apostles, even though it is not God's plan that any should perish. When they reject, we still have a responsibility before God to share His word, then share it again and again. I am not convinced that we will ever find the perfect strategy for anywhere that will work all the time, every time. I don't feel that God works like that.-even if it is all Bible! When God, the great counselor talked with Adam, Adam disobeyed. He counseled with Cain before Cain killed his brother. God Himself was Cain's counselor. Cain still disobeyed. Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem because they had rejected Him.
Our obligation, is to leave the results up to Him.
Having said that, if we are in right relationship with the Father, we will witness. We will memorize His word. We will, because of the crown that lies ahead, cry over the cities where God has called us to serve. We will recognize our own limitations, our own self-sufficiency, and renounce it. We will practice the gospel, and tell the gospel. If the Father chooses to save the city, as He did in Nineva, may we be humbled that He would work through unworthy servants.
In a recent article,, I read the following words:
After 30 years of observing engineers in various management positions, I have to agree that engineers are generally selected for management positions for the wrong reason, i.e., technical competence rather than managerial proficiency. Engineering managers are seldom educated and/or trained to understand themselves or the people around them and, sadly, many of them do not realize the value of such knowledge. Ignorance may be bliss, but in the business of engineering that ignorance lowers productivity and profits not to mentioned company morale.The article was written for a managerial problem found in a secular profession. Our work is eternal, our boss is the Lord, and as a result, maybe everything in the article will not apply to us and our situation. However, I feel that there are some principles that we can gain from this article and apply to our work as we compare what the author said and how Jesus lived, and how we relate to those who pay our paycheck. Personally, I am still trying to figure out how to be a missionary, I don't have time to worry about supervising my colleagues who have been here much longer than I have. I want to work with the nationals in such a way that they are effective in bringing about a CPM. I know that if it happens and by faith it will, it will be the work of the nationals who catch the vision and implement it, and not foreigners like us.
The Peter Principle:
Mr. Neil E. Thornberry's article "Transforming the Engineer into a Manager: Avoiding the Peter Principle", Civil Engineering Practice, Fall 1989, provides the insight necessary to begin to understand what happens to technical professionals, including engineers, as they progress in their careers. Mr. Thornberry asserts that young engineers are judged on technical merit and accomplishment and promotions go to the technically proficient and verbally expressive engineers, while the less technically proficient and verbally expressive engineers wait their turn.
What makes a good engineer? For many managers the answer is simple: a good engineer follows directions, pays close attention to details, does error-free work, finishes on time, and personally does whatever it takes to get the job done. Young engineers receive recognition and rewards primarily through their own efforts by personally producing fast and accurate work and doing so over long hours when necessary.
The reward for the technically proficient and verbally expressive engineer is a promotion with a higher salary and more prestige. After more promotions based on the same criteria, i.e., technical proficiency, the reward for further outstanding performance is a promotion into management. There's the rub! The personality traits and work habits that are common in good engineers often cause them to become poor managers.
The preceding explains why so some executives are frustrated by their inability to improve their organizations. Managers, unlike young engineers, must know how to achieve their predetermined goals through the cooperative efforts of others—not by doing the work themselves. Managers must not focus on details all the time, but only when necessary. Managers must be cognizant of what motivates others to succeed and then allow them to achieve success. Where do engineering managers learn these skills? On the job from older engineers who learned on the job from even older engineers, etc. The pattern persists and competent engineers become incompetent managers—the Peter Principle.The Peter principle is a principal set forth by Laurence Johnston Peter (1919-1990) stating that people rise individually through the employee ranks until they reach a level of where they are incompetent.
At any rate, here is how we can apply the article to our ministry:
1. If we are to be effective, we need to start by understanding ourselves and the people around us. -What great advice for anyone living in community
2. Could we also say that a good Missionary follows directions, pays close attention to details, does error-free work, finishes on time, and personally does whatever it takes to get the job done. We receive recognition and rewards primarily because of what God does through us, and not our own efforts or by personal manipulation, and emotional hype.
3. The reward for being proficient, for us is, more times than not, a need to accomplish more for the Kingdom of our Lord. I suppose that there are those that want to climb the political latter, but for at lest many of us, that's what we want to avoid.
4. Missionaries, unlike young engineers, must know how to achieve their predetermined goals through the cooperative efforts of others—not by doing the work themselves. Managers must not focus on details all the time, but only when necessary. Managers must be cognizant of what motivates others to succeed and then allow them to achieve success.
I am so thankful that the IMB has high goals, with steps of completion. We are to help the people to reach their family members and intimate friends for Jesus. The goal is to involve every believer in the great commission. We have the privilege of celebrating the victories. Why is it that so many times, we forget to celebrate the victories? We would much rather look at all the new things that we have tried, and didn't produce the intended outcome, or all the churches that we didn't plant that we become frustrated, work ourselves silly and loose our families in the process.
I am very comfortable with the care that the IMB provides for us. We have a job to do. Our job is spiritual in nature, and we are very incompetent to fulfill it. I suppose that we have all arrived at the Peter principle, but we are not alone. -pun intended!
Sunday, September 10, 2006
So, I like many others, have asked the question-
why does He not do more through me?
-Many have suggested that it is because we, Southern Baptists in general, have muzzled the Spirit. We have denied him access to certain areas of our life. We have chosen to live self-centered, egotistical lives that deny His power. I think that maybe there is validity to this. King Saul gave God the very best of the city of Amalek in 15. If you remember, God had told him to kill everything. He disobeyed and kept the best of the best for worship. Second Timothy 3:5 talks about having a form of religion but denying the power thereof. When we put this in its context, there are a host of other problems associated with these verses. Saul hid when he was asked to be king, allowed fear to cripple his army when Goliath blasphemed our LORD, tried to kill his servant David several times, and made some really bad decisions as a leader. He wanted to keep the kingdom at all cost. In the 2 Tim passage, there was a definite problem with authority, and self control. Feel free to read the list of problems that these power deniers had.
If we are to judge based upon our results, how many churches we have planted, how many people were baptized because of our ministry, or how many lives that we have impacted, I would suggest that we are using the wrong measuring stick. If you will also remember, Noah worked on an ark for a very long time, and in doing so preached righteousness. He had no converts outside his own family. God's call to Isaiah in Isaiah 6:1-11, God told Isaiah that there would be no converts. Mark 5:17 Jesus himself was asked to leave the city because he healed a demon possessed man. In the book of 2 Tim, Paul states that everyone in Asia had turned away from him, implying that they had rejected the gospel as well.
We are so results oriented that production is drilled into us from the time that we are children even into our senior years. When we look to the scriptures, for valid prayers, One prayer for healing that comes to mind is found in 2 Kings 20 - Hezekiah prayed to the Lord that he would not die. He lived an extra 15 years. The last fifteen years of his life he had a son named Manasseh. Manasseh became king at the age of 12, likely the year that his father died, and the Bible tells us that he did evil in the sight of the Lord. He rebuilt all the high places of idolatry that his father had destroyed.
I understand that we pray for healings so that people can see the results and put their trust in Jesus, and that there is a gift mentioned that bears this name. However, I remember so many times that Jesus' miracles did not result in people's turning to Him as Lord, but rather a big papa Santa in the sky. Consider the time that Jesus fed 5000 men plus women and children! Wow, what a miracle. What an opportunity for people to come to Him in faith. Yet, look at the results. They didn't turn to him in faith, but with a palm raised "Oh, Lord. Give us this bread always", they said. He made his famous statement about drinking his blood and eating his flesh, many disciples turned away from him. He turned to t he others and ask if they were going too. Peter responded there's no where else to go -loose paraphrase.
I know that Jesus told his disciples to heal the sick, cast out demons and raise the dead. I understand that Jesus caused the blind to see, and lame to walk. However, most of the times that he did so was on a sabbath, and there was immediate conflict between him and the Jewish leaders. My purpose is not to discredit His work, however, to just state that his preferred method was to use the ordinary. see Jn 4:48
There are no accounts of Jesus' healing at Sycar in Jn. 4. However, an entire harvest was gained for the kingdom. The Great commission tells us to make disciples. We are to baptize, and teach them to observe all that Jesus commanded. We are not told to heal them. We are to be instant, in season and out of season. We are to preach the Word. I believe that God is much more concerned with who we are rather than what we do.
James tells us that if there is anyone sick, let him call the elders of the church. Notice, that the responsibility is for the sick man, not the elders. The elders will pray and anoint, and he will be healed. Notice in the passage, three things that the Lord will do. 1. heal, 2. raise up, and 3. forgive his sin. We cannot isolate this text. If the person does not repent from his sins, he will not likely be able to come before the elders of the church. Elders of the church have the responsibility to hold this brother accountable, help him to get the medical attention needed, take his meds, get the exercise, practice what is right. This is because that elder is a shephard.
I struggle when people want me to pray so that they will have an extra good luck charm, -my prayers. I don't know how to respond to their request. I don't want to offend them by saying no or trying to explain my hesitation. Yet, on the other hand, I want much more for them than that they sell their veggies for that day.
On the same note, I have gone into a restaurant and asked the waiter how I can pray for him. When he didn't understand my question, I told him that I would pray that they would sell all the prepared food that they have for that day. I still eat in there often, and told the one waiting on me specifically what I was praying for. I am waiting for further directions from the Lord. This did not help the waiter directly, but rather the restaurant. The next time that I went there, I was received differently. I have also given a practical book to the owner, whose wife recently had a baby boy.
1. Maybe there are things in our life that need to be changed, but if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence toward God, and whatever we ask we receive of Him because we keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.(1Jn3:20-22)
2. Results will ultimately be shown when the judge comes.
3. Jesus' healings helped to establish His identity. However, for many they only established a free lunch, with the prospect of another tomorrow.
4. Harvest does not have to depend upon bells, whistles, emotions and healings.
5. Healing ministry of the church is based in shephard care.
6. we can ask our Lord anything that we wish, and if it is in accordance with His will, and our hearts do not condemn us, we can know that we have asked of Him.
Hope that this is helpful to somone else as well. It is helpful for me to put it down in print.