Little is much when God is in it!

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Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity. Luke 6:38 (MSG).

Mission agencies have a significant role to play in connecting people with Jesus and His Story. I don’t use the word “significant” lightly. I believe God has uniquely equipped and empowered mission agencies to do some things that local churches can’t do or don’t do.

The challenges we’re facing in the 21st century are enormous. In many instances Christians are dealing with belief systems and public opinion that are blatantly antagonistic to their faith. If we want to reach our world, make a difference in our day, change nations for the good, then mission agencies need to be supported. Business and commerce can’t lift up society. Governments can only do so much. Spiritual innovation and entrepreneurial faith are required. Who will look out for the disadvantaged on a grand scale? Who will specialize in leading children with autism to the One who says, “My grace is sufficient for you”? Who will reach out to refugees and let them know that God loves every tribe and tongue and nation? Who will print and distribute the Scriptures that proclaim words of life? And who will embrace people in the margins so that they can know hope and fullness of life in Jesus Christ?

There are many Christians who have lowered their horizons. Let’s not be numbered with them. Little is much when God is in it. There are more opportunities to advance the kingdom of God than there have ever been before. So let’s dream and work together to reach others with the Good News.

Dreaming and working … Resources are needed to make dreams come true. Is there a cause that God’s placed on your heart.  Don’t do the least you can do – do what God wants you to do. Help a mission agency today. An American fund-raiser once said, “Philanthropy is the market for love.” So take the opportunity to exercise love by sending a financial gift to the mission agency God’s directing you to support.

Essential Questions

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Who are you Lord? Acts 22:8 (NIV).

Blogger and author, Leo Babauta, said, “The questions we ask of ourselves determine the type of people we become.” I believe that’s true.

In Acts 22:1-21 the Apostle Paul/Saul asks two essential questions, which, if you read about the life of Paul, determined who he became.  The first question is, “Who are you, Lord?” Acts 22:8 (NIV). Have you asked that question? I asked that question through the course of my childhood and teenage years and two weeks before my 19th birthday discovered the answer … an answer that radically and forever changed my life.

“Who are you ,Lord?” When Paul asked the question the answer was “I am Jesus of Nazareth …” When I asked the question I discovered that Jesus Christ is my Creator, Saviour, Truth and Life. He and He alone is the One who rescues me from sin, reconciles me to God the Father, fills me with His Spirit, gives me abundant life, and guarantees resurrection from death with eternal life to come. That’s BIG … that’s HUGE! When you ask, “Who are you Lord?”, and then discover the answer, everything changes … for me, it was like going from the darkness into the light … from being blind to being able to see!

The second essential question that Paul asks is, “What should I do, Lord?” Acts 22:10 (NIV). The order of the questions is important. Before we can ask the Lord what we should do, we must ask Him who He is. Relationship comes first. Work follows. Once you know Christ, you’re set to serve Christ. You can’t serve Christ if you don’t know Him.

“What should I do, Lord?” The answer God gave to Paul was very simple. First, he was to go to Damascus (Acts 22:10). Second, he was to be God’s witness, telling everyone what he had seen and heard (Acts 2:15). And third, he was to be baptized, have his sins washed away and to call on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16).

Since coming to Christ as my Saviour and Lord I’ve asked, “What should I do, Lord?” not once, but countless times through the course of the nearly 4 decades that I’ve been a Christian. God, through His Word, has given me all encompassing big picture answers like, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’” Matthew 22:37-39 (NIV).  And “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV). And my life verse Micah 6:8, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (NIV).

And there have also been very specific answers from the Scriptures like the confirmation my sweetheart and I received that we should be married, his plan for us to have three children, the way we were directed to come and serve as missionaries in Canada, the word from God to plant a church in Orillia, and many more …

“Who are you, Lord?” and “What should I do, Lord?” are life defining questions. What are the questions defining your life?

 

What should the church be doing, Lord?

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If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14  (NIV).

“What should the church be doing, Lord?” Given some of the realities and challenges facing the church today this may be the single most difficult and complex question to answer – certainly in the flesh. So I do not presume, in and of myself, to be able to suggest an answer. But I can draw your attention to what I’m gleaning, what the church is learning or re-learning, and what the Holy Spirit is drawing to the attention of those who have ears to hear. Here are 5 things we must do:

Remove the idols. Money (the love of), sex and power are the three primary counterfeit gods in our culture today. Why are they such a big problem? Because we rely on them more than we rely on God (that’s what makes them idols) and until we get rid of them the church will only be luke-warm at best. God says, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived” Colossians 3:5-7.

Return to prayer. Many Christians don’t attend church prayer meetings. God says, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” 2 Chronicles 7:14.

Renew Bible engagement. A text in Amos 8:11 recently caught my attention: “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign Lord, ‘when I will send a famine through the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.'” Sadly, statistics indicate that there is a famine in the Western world of hearing the word of the Lord. One study indicated that only 11% of Christians regularly read God’s Word. Another study stated that there’s a direct correlation between weekly church attendance and Bible engagement. Renewal in the church begins when we start meeting God daily in and through His Word.

Revitalise evangelism. Evangelism has fallen on hard times. We find preachers and teachers in the churches, but very few evangelists. Churches talk about sharing the Gospel, but conversions are few and far between. Evangelism should be a priority. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?” Romans 10:14-15.

Rest in God. The church must stop doing things in its own strength. To attain spiritual objectives we must walk in the power of the Spirit. Here are three injunctions to guide us: “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this” Psalm 37:5. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” Proverbs 3:5. “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” Psalm 27:14.

The Parent/Grandparent God Wants You To Be

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The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are away on a journey, when you are lying down and when you are getting up again. Tie them to your hands as a reminder, and wear them on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9  (NLT).

What kind of parent and/or grandparent does God want you to be? The first thing we need to know is that God wants us to be parents/grandparents who are committed  wholeheartedly to His Word. Now why is that important? Why is God’s Word the starting point for what God wants to accomplish in parents/grandparents? Because the Word is life (John 1:1-4), it’s where we meet God and He meets us, and because it informs our daily thinking and actions.

If our children/grandchildren are going to know fullness of life, they must know Christ and know His Word. In order for children/grandchildren to know the Word they need to see parents/grandparents as living epistles. That is, they need to see parents/grandparents embodying the Word in the things they say and do. This should include children seeing us studying the Word, talking about the Word, meditating on the Word, and living out the Word.

That said, the parents/grandparents we want to be aren’t always the parents/grandparents we turn out to be. While we may want the Word to be paramount in our homes, there are times when our attitudes and actions fall short of our intent. That’s why it’s crucial for us to also depend on the power of the Holy Spirit. “He who has the Holy Spirit in his heart and the Scriptures in his hands has all he needs,” says Alexander Maclaren.

We can never become the parents/grandparents God wants us to be if we try to do it in our own strength. Ephesians 5:18 says, “… let the Holy Spirit fill and control you” (NLT). If we’re to rise to our fullest stature as parents/grandparents and if we’re to be powerful influences in our children’s/grandchildren’s lives, we can’t rely on our personalities, skill, pedigree, intellect, financial means or experience. These things will never be enough. Priority must be given to regularly reading and reflecting on God’s Word as well as praying and asking God to fill us with His Spirit. For when we do these things God gives us the wisdom, patience, self-control, grace, spirit of generosity and everything else we need to be the parents/grandparents God wants us to be.

Take The Ancient Paths

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This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16 (NIV).

How do we do what’s right and good when tolerance, complacency, permissiveness, selfishness, moral decline, and pleasure-seeking abound? How do we discover the right route for our souls when even believers are lazy and content, congregate around preachers who tell them what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3), or worse, close their ears completely and refuse to hear (Jeremiah 6:10)?

The story of the prophet Jeremiah is similar to our story. Many of the sins that brought God’s judgement on the Israelites are the sins that afflict society today. And the divine solution, prophetically declared by Jeremiah, is for us to take the “ancient paths” (Jeremiah 6:16).

So how do we walk in the way that is good and right? How do we restore/renew our relationship with God? And how do we find peace when the world is crumbling around us? This is what the Lord says:

  • Look. We must see our reality for what it is. When we’re at a crossroads a choice must be made. If we continue along the road that we’ve been on, we may be headed for disaster, but if we “ask where the good way is, and walk in it, (we) will find rest for (our) souls” Jeremiah 6:16 (NIV).
  • Listen. We must pay attention to the prophets and preachers who are sounding the alarm. We must listen as individuals, as nations, and as the whole earth. Failure to listen will end in our ruin.
  • Learn. Sacrifices and religious rituals mean naught to God. Nothing short of wholesale repentance will suffice. Superficial external shows of penitence are repugnant to God. We must change from the inside out. We must turn back to God with broken hearts (Joel 2:13).

There’s hope for the future – but we must decide what we want the future to be. If we take the ancient paths, we’ll live in peace. If we play games with God and show contempt for His Word, the end result will be catastrophe.

Sound The Alarm!

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“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Joel 2:12 (NIV).

When I was a boy in South Africa I was caught in a plague of locusts. It was simultaneously horrifying and awesome. In the distance the swarm looked like a black cloud. As they approached, the distinction between the sky and land was gradually blurred out. Before they arrived they sounded like the sea heard at a distance. When they landed, the whirr of their wings was like the roar of a gigantic dynamo revolving at high speed.

The farmers and labourers did everything in their power to stop the locusts landing. They ran around the fields yelling and crashing steel pots together, hoping that the noise would scare them away. But it was all to no avail. Before long there were 10-20 locusts on every stalk of grass and in less than a minute it was completely consumed. Within 5-10 minutes, as the locusts rose into the air to continue their advance, there was no vegetation for as far as I could see. The look of grief and utter defeat on the faces of the farmers is still etched in my mind.

The prophet Joel’s description of an army of locusts in Joel 2:1-11 opens and closes  with a warning about the coming “day of the Lord” (Joel 2:1, 11). This inclusio (a literary device known as bracketing which consists of creating a frame by placing similar material at the beginning and end of a section) is used to stress the gravity of the situation and prompt the reader/listener to take action.

True prophets demonstrate both insight and foresight. Their words both foretell and tell forth. They not only predict the future, they also reveal God’s will for the present.  Joel sounded the trumpet in his day because he saw how the “day of the Lord” had come in the form of a locust plague to punish the sins of the Israelites. He also saw how the “day of the Lord” is yet to come when everyone who persists in sinning will have to face the consequences of their rebellion (Matthew 7:21-29).

Do you hear the alarm?

Repent!

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Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Joel 2:13 (NIV).

According to the prophet Joel, disasters should serve as wake-up calls to repentance.

Joel’s prophecy in the Old Testament opens with a litany of destruction and devastation wrought by a plague of locusts (Joel 1:1-12) and continues with an appeal to the people to change their ways and turn to God so that He can wipe away their sins (Joel 1:13-14). Interestingly, God’s call to repentance came first to the priests, then the leaders, and then went out to the people (Joel 1:13-14, 2:1-17). Perhaps the reason for this process (priests – religious leaders – people) is because priests and leaders should, by virtue of their roles, show the way back to God through their example.

While repentance is needed in the world at large, we should recognize that repentance should first and foremost be a defining characteristic of God’s people. The Israelites often forgot this, as do we. That’s why we should see our own sin for what it is (Matthew 7:3), show remorse, ask for forgiveness and renew our love for God (Psalm 51:10).

Spiritual problems require spiritual solutions. When there’s spiritual apathy or bankruptcy, repentance is required in order for a person to reconcile or restore their relationship with God. When there’s no repentance, judgment ensues. The Israelites in Joel’s time thought that the “day of the Lord” would be judgment on their enemies. But they were wrong. The prophet Amos revealed how, in the absence of repentance, the “day of the Lord” brings disaster on God’s covenant people (Amos 5:18-27).

In the context of the whole Bible story, repentance was preached by the Old Testament prophets and by New Testament preachers (e.g. Matthew 3:2, Mark 6:12, Acts 3:19). According to 2 Corinthians 7:9-11, repentance leads to sorrow over sin, disgust for sin, restoration with others, revival toward God, and the opportunity to move forward without regrets. So for those of us who are God’s people, let’s take a spiritual inventory, and if need be, return to the Lord through repentance in order to reconcile our relationships with God.