Rich in Faith

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? (James 2:5, NLT)

Yesterday, as we (my church family) were praying for churches that we’re working towards establishing in El Salvador and Ghana, I began thinking about the impoverished communities where these churches will be built. As I prayed, in my spirit I was reminded of 2 Corinthians 8:2 which states, “They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.” Of course, in context, Paul was writing this to the church at Corinth, regarding the churches in Macedonia, who, though having very little, gave freely and abundantly to the believers in Jerusalem, who had even less. But I was reminded yesterday, that the believers in other nations and cities who are lacking basic every day needs, are in the same boat! They may have very little in monetary and dietary value, yet they are rich in faith and joy. How is that possible?

Well, let’s recall the Israelites in the desert, after God rescued them from Egypt. Did God not provide for their every physical need on a daily basis? Just as the Israelites were forced to a position of complete reliance on God for daily sustenance—manna, quail, water, and even clothing—these churches in nations with very little, recognize that God is the giver and sustainer of life! They have faith in His faithfulness and ability to provide for their every need, even though their current situation tells them otherwise.

I believe, in America, faith like this is difficult to obtain because we have so much! Having much isn’t a bad thing, but when we come to rely more on the things that we have, rather than the Giver who provides them, our faith and relationship with Christ are impacted negatively. Therefore, we shouldn’t hold so tightly to the things that God has so richly blessed us with, but always remain in a position of obedience, thanksgiving, joy and compassion that moves us to help our brothers and sisters in need.

Lastly, a few weeks ago, as I was helping out in the kid’s church on a Sunday morning, the speaker described a pitcher pouring water into a cup and the cup overflowing, as an example of Psalm 23:5: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” And as he spoke on this, I immediately pictured one of those fountains in my head, in which, a pitcher pours water into one cup, which, inFountain turn, pours water into another cup, and then into another, and so forth. I remembered that God blesses all His children—whether financially, spiritually, with knowledge, or other gifts—but we aren’t to keep the gifts to ourselves! We’re to allow it to pour forth into the lives of others, so that they, in turn, can do the same.

Therefore, let us remain in a position of submission to God, seeking His face daily, and allowing Him to continually pour into and bless us, so that we can pour into and bless those around us. Let our faith be not in the things we have, but in the One who gives them; and may our hearts be full of joy and faith, knowing that God is faithful and just (Psalm 111:7; 1 John 1:9), trusting that He cares for us (Matthew 10:29-31), and having full confidence that He has and will continue to provide for us, strengthen, and protect us (Psalm 31:22-24; Isaiah 40:29-31; Romans 5:17-18). In Him we place our hope!

This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers. (1 Timothy 4:10, NLT)

Power

How often we talk about the power and authority found in the Holy Spirit, and yet, where is the evidence that we believe in that power? Romans 8:11 (NLT) states “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in” us [emphasis added].

The Spirit of God, the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in us. (Yes, I realized I just repeated myself, lol, but it’s so important and exciting it bears repeating.)

Yesterday–Sunday, September 1, 2013–I listened as my pastor spoke about how the Holy Spirit equips us with power to preach the gospel, and I sat there, in total agreement, without really understanding all that that entailed. Until today, when I opened up my textbooks for school and read about…power. What?! (Hahaha, yes, this is how God works.)

According to my textbook, there’s this theory called the “Approach/Inhibition Theory,” and according to this theory we act/respond differently depending on whether or not we feel as though we have or lack power.

  • Approach (having power) is associated with:
    • action
    • seeking rewards and opportunity (being proactive)
    • increased energy and movement
    • ability to express ideas
    • resisting conformity to pressures
  • Inhibition (lacking power) is associated with:
    • reaction
    • self-protection
    • avoiding threats and danger
    • vigilance
    • loss of motivation
    • an overall reduction in activity

Honestly, as I was reading this, I realized I often act as though I’m lacking power! And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this.

But, wait a minute, didn’t we just say that the Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in us!? So, why do we act as though we’re lacking power? Because, as my textbook states “power is a state of mind” and unless we truly BELIEVE that the power of God is living in us, we’re not going to LIVE as though the power of God is living in us!

Now, you may be thinking, “but I DO believe that the Holy Spirit—the power of God—is living in me,” then perhaps the problem is we just aren’t grasping the greatness of His power.

We’re talking about the God of the Universe! He shaped the heavens, the sun, the moon, and stars. He formed the earth, created every drop of rain, and every blade of grass. He breathed life into all of creation and knows the number of hairs on each of our heads. His word says He knit us together in our mother’s womb and knows the deepest desires or our hearts. He’s the God who never gave up on us, even after sin entered the world; He sent His one and only Son into this world to carry our burdens upon His sinless back. He’s healed the diseased, given sight to the blind, brings hope to the hopeless. He’s Father to the fatherless, and brings peace to the troubled heart.

(I could go on and on, but if you really want to know Who He is and what He’s capable of, I really suggest you study His word on your own.)

Like the song says, there IS power in the name of Jesus, and THAT is the POWER that lives in us, as believers! Therefore, we should be proactive for Christ, speaking the truth boldly, stepping outside of our comfort zones, and asking others where can help, rather than waiting for others to ask us. We shouldn’t be afraid of rejection, or being hurt, and we should never let the opinions of others or our own weaknesses and shortcomings keep us from moving forward on plans that God has already confirmed in our lives. And why not?

Because the Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in us.

Multiply: Week 6

Part II: Living as the Church

3: The Global Church

I, again, apologize for not writing on a more regular basis. I’ve started riding the train to and from work, which means I leave my home earlier and get home later in the evenings, leaving me less time to do other things during the week. It’s going to take some getting used to and some serious time management skills, since I’ll be returning to school in a few weeks, as well. Before I begin chapter 14 of Romans I thought I’d continue our discussion of Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples, because chapter 6 is about the global church and I feel it has much in common with previous chapters of Romans.

As important as the local church is, God’s plan extends way beyond your town. As much as God wants you to reach the people in your community, He has no intention of stopping there. God’s plan of redemption reaches into your neighborhood–and to every other city, village, and jungle around the globe! (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p.77)

The Bible makes a point to explain that the fall of Adam and Eve affected all of humanity; not just a certain ethnic or geographical group. In the same manner, the life, death, and resurrection of Christ–the grace of God–is meant for all! If we’re not trying to make some sort of effort to reach those in other parts of the world, then we’re not truly being obedient to the call of Christ, through the Great Commission to share the gospel.

A few days ago I was reading Romans chapter 10…

As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 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 they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:11-15)

The word “believe” in Greek is pisteuo, which means “to adhere to, cleave to; to trust, to have faith in; to rely on, to depend on.” Therefore, how can anybody have a relationship with–adhere to, cleave to, trust, rely, or depend on–Christ if they don’t believe that He exists? They have no faith. How can they have faith (or a relationship) with Christ if no one has ever told them about what God has done for them? And how can they hear about God’s grace and mercy if someone doesn’t tell them? God commands us to share the gospel with the world. We must tell others, so that they may hear and believe (adhere to, cleave to; to trust, to have faith in; to rely on, to depend on).

“But how can I reach the globe?” you may be thinking to yourself. I had to ask myself the same question. Francis Chan answers it this way:

We all need to consider whether God is calling us to follow Him onto the mission field, but we have to remember that this is not the only way of working to fulfill God’s plan to reach every nation. If we decide that God wants us to remain in the area in which He has placed us for the time being, then we need to be using our resources to further the mission around the world. Even if we find our primary ministry in the people directly surrounding us, we need to be praying for our fellow workers in other parts of the world. (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p. 85)

In other words, “The question is not whether or not we will be working to spread the gospel around the world, but what role we will play in this” (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p. 86).

I would love to take a missions trip one day, but until that day comes I’ll continue to share the gospel through other means. For me, that means continuing to write this blog. I’ve delightfully discovered that many of my readers are from various places around the globe; from countries that can be found in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America. This excites me and motivates me to focus my writing solely on what God wants me to share. I also do my part by supporting a child through World Vision, and although my financial situation is a little sticky, I continue to give because I know that my gifts have a great impact on the life of my little friend and his community. And every time I see a Facebook post or Tweet about fellow believers suffering persecution or imprisonment for their faith, I send out a prayer for their protection and ask that God would envelop them with His love and peace; I also send out retweets and sign petitions for their release. But this is just how I reach the world.

In what ways do you attempt to reach the globe and share the message of Christ?

The Bridegroom

I finished up Every Woman’s Battle by Shannon Ethridge tonight, and towards the end of the book the author reveals a dream (rather a nightmare) that she had one night, which can be applied towards every believer (male or female) and I thought it needed to be shared.

A radiant bride greeted her guests with a brilliant smile as she entered the reception hall after the wedding ceremony. She gracefully moved and milled about the room, the train of her stunning white gown flowing along the floor behind her, her veil cascading down her button-adorned back.

She conversed with each guest one by one, taking the time to mingle and soak up the compliments. “You look absolutely lovely.” “Your dress is divine.” “I’ve never seen a more beautiful bride.” “What a stunning ceremony.” The lavish praises rang on and on. The bride couldn’t be more proud or more appreciative of the crowd’s adoration. She could have listened to them swoon over her all evening. As a matter of fact, she did.

But where was the groom? All the attention focused on the bride and never once did she call anyone’s attention to her husband. She didn’t even notice his absence at her side. Scanning the room, I searched for him, wondering, “Where could he be?”

I finally found him, but not where I expected him to be. The groom stood alone over in the corner of the room with his head down. As he stared at his ring, twisting the gold band that had just been placed on his finger by his bride, tears trickled down his cheeks and onto his hands. That is when I noticed the nails scars. The groom was Jesus.

He waited, but the bride never once turned her face toward her groom. She never held His hand. She never introduced the guests to Him. She operated independently of Him.

I awoke from my dream with a sick feeling in my stomach. “Lord, is this how I made you feel when I as looking for love in all the wrong places?” I wept at the thought of hurting Him so deeply.

Unfortunately, this dream illustrates exactly what is happening between God and millions of His people. He betroths Himself to us, we take His name (as “Christians”), and then we go about our lives looking for love attention, and affection from every source under the sun except from the Son of God, the Lover of our souls.

Oh, how Jesus longs for His own to acknowledge Him, to introduce Him to our friends, to withdraw to be alone with Him, to cling to Him for our identity, to gaze longingly into His eyes, to love Him with all our heart and soul.

What about you? Do you have this kind of love relationship with Christ? Do you experience the inexplicable joy of intimacy with the One who loves you with a passion far deeper, far greater than anything you could find here on earth? I know from experience that you can.

Ethridge, S. (2003). Every Woman’s Battle: Discovering God’s Plan for Sexual and Emotional Fulfillment. Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook Press.

Multiply: Week 5

Part II: Living as the Church

IMG_34042: The Local Church

Before we begin, I’d like to start off by apologizing for not keeping up with our discussion on Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples by Francis Chan & Mark Beuving. The last few weeks have been extremely busy and draining for me, and it’s kept me from writing much of anything–besides what I’ve been writing in my personal notebook on my study of Romans.

With that being said, Week 4 of our discussion brought up some questions regarding my ministry and where my gifts and time would best be applied. I’ve made a few decisions in my life, some of which I’ve already revealed to my leaders and some of which I will soon be discussing with others. I pray that the same could be said for you; that the words that are being written here are not just for my benefit, but for yours as well; and that we’re all putting them into practice.

While Week 4 discussed the importance of being an active member in a local church, this week’s focus is on being actively involved–as a church–in reaching out to our community. Francis Chan states that “an inwardly focused church is an unhealthy church. It is a dying church. Biblically, a church that fails to look at the world around it is no church at all” (p. 66).

We are called, as believers, to reach out to our lost and dying world. Jesus, himself, said that His purpose on earth was to “seek and save the lost” and we are called to a similar purpose.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

“God has placed your church in the midst of a broader community so that He can spread His love, hope, and healing into the lives of the people around you” (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p. 66); and we do this out of the love for others that God has placed upon our hearts. Remember, the world will know that we belong to God based on our love (for God and for people) (John 13:34-35). Love must be our compelling force.

This means that have to step out of our comfort zone. We can’t keep our Christianity behind closed doors. We can’t keep the gift of Grace to ourselves! “If your church is not actively blessing the surrounding community, then you are ignoring God’s mission” and “if your church does not pursue God’s mission, then your community misses out on being exposed to the hope that God offers them in the gospel” (Chan & Beuving, 2012, pp. 74-75).

Francis Chan’s concludes with this statement:”There’s a reason God has you in this church at this point in history. You can help your church become an attractive community that exhibits Christ’s love, unity, and hope” (p. 75).

I listened to a message a few weeks ago by Beth Moore, as she talked about “God’s Purpose for Your Life in Your Generation,” and it’s what came to mind as I read Francis Chan’s conclusion. There are many of us in our churches with gifts and experiences which God has blessed us with and walked us through, which are very specific to the current generation in which we live. We may have all sorts of excuses that we use to prevent us from sharing those gifts or experiences, but God is asking that we use them! I understand that sometimes we feel inadequate, held back by others, frustrated, or even judged; but within us lives the power of the Holy Spirit! The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in us! He empowers us, strengthens us, and qualifies us for the roles He has for us.

I’m sure you’ve heard the statement, “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.” It’s so true! God has been preparing you and I for a particular purpose, over time God will reveal that purpose to us and when He does, it’s our job to be obedient and take action regarding that purpose. We need to find the roles to which we are called within our church and community and step into them in obedience, faith, and, most importantly, love.

Multiply: Week 4

Part II: Living as the Churchmultiply_square_black1[1]

1: Life in the Church

Thanks for returning while we read/work through Francis Chan & Mark Beuving’s Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples.

This week, Francis Chan discusses our need to belong to a body of believers (a church), the purpose of the church, and where we fit in, as believers. He begins by stating that  “While every individual needs to obey Jesus’s call to follow, we cannot follow Jesus as individuals. The proper context for every disciple maker is the church.” In other words, we cannot make disciples without being part of a larger church community, because we cannot follow all of Jesus’s commands if we’re not in relationship with other believers.

Look at if from this perspective: the New Testament is full of commands to do this or that for “one another.” Love one another, pray for one another, encourage one another, etc. So how can we teach people to “observe all that I have commanded” if they have no one to love, pray for, or encourage? It’s impossible to “one another” yourself. It’s impossible to follow Jesus alone. We can’t claim to follow Jesus if we neglect the church He created, the church He died for, the church He entrusted His mission to. (Chan & Bueving, 2012, pp. 51-52)

It is incredibly important for every Christian to find and commit themselves to a local body of believers. As Francis Chan states, “The church is a group of redeemed people that live and serve together in such a way that their lives and communities are transformed…If you are not connected with other Christians, serving and being served, challenging and being challenged, then you are not living as He desires, and the church is not functioning as He intended” (p. 53). This can also be applied to finding a church. If you’re attending a church where God’s word is not being taught and applied in a way that challenges you or in which serving others isn’t a priority, maybe you should rethink where you’re attending. You don’t want to remain in spiritual immaturity forever and you want to be able to serve as God has called you to. And, as Francis Chan states, “A pastor’s job is not to do all of the ministry in a church, but to ‘equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ’ (Ephesians 4:12)” (p. 55).

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 5:1-2)

As believers we are called to “encourage, challenge, and help” other Christians in our lives, and they should do the same for us; and as we minister to others we are sanctified by Christ.

Now, here is the challenging part…We need to be ministering wholeheartedly and walking in love; the love that comes from the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s easy to throw some money towards a particular church activity or service, but to set aside time to get to know the individuals involved (those serving or being served), to be involved with them on a daily basis, to really care for their spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being–that’s the challenge.

Yet God has supplied us with everything we need in order to fulfill His calling. The power to transform hearts and change lives comes from the Holy Spirit (John 6:63), through the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and through prayer (James 5:16-20). As we use the Scriptures to give counsel to others, there is power (Hebrews 4:12). As we pray passionately for their hearts to change, there is power. (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p. 60)

God places each of us in our particular situation so that we can minister specifically to the people around us. Until every person in our church is using the particular spiritual gift(s) that the Holy Spirit has empowered each of us with, the church won’t be functioning at its full potential.

I’m still sitting here trying to fully comprehend all that this chapter discusses. I have a certain set of spiritual gifts, but where they can be applied in my church, is something of a challenge to me. Strangely enough, I’ve been praying about this since just before the new year…Where can my gifts be best used/applied? Where should I focus my time and energy? How do I best love/serve others?

I’m sure you’re now asking yourself some of the same questions. This is good! This study should challenge and encourage us to make change, so that we can become disciples who make disciples.

Multiply: Week 3

Part I: Living as a Disciple Maker

3: The Heart of a Disciple Maker

Tonight we’re going to discuss chapter 3 of Francis Chan & Mark Beuving’s book Multiply. This is a short and very direct chapter, so there won’t be much quoting from the text this week.

Basically, Francis Chan discusses the issue of our hearts, or our motives, for becoming a disciple maker. Why are we preparing to be disciple makers? To please someone? To look good or gain someone’s praise or approval? Out of obedience?

Francis Chan reminds us that the Pharisees were quite good at keeping up appearances, but their motivation was hardly that which God accepted as pure and pleasing to Him. Neither does God want us to minister to others out of obedience, or obligation, to Him, but out of joy. Francis Chan states it this way: “God wants us to enjoy the privilege and pleasure of ministering to others. He wants us to be cheerful when we give (2 Corinthians 9:7)” (p. 41).

Francis also reminds those of us who feel led and passionate about sharing God’s message, that we should be cautious as leaders, because teaching others is a very serious thing. Remember what the book of James says about teaching and the power of the tongue:

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (James 3:1-6)

Leaders, teachers, and ministers have the power to set someone on the wrong course, if they’re not careful!

Most important, according to Francis Chan is that “making disciples isn’t about gathering pupils to listen to your teaching. The real focus is not on teaching people at all–the focus is on loving them.” This is where God wants our hearts!

Jesus’s call to make disciples includes teaching people to be obedient followers of Jesus, but the teaching isn’t the end goal. Ultimately, it’s all about being faithful to God’s call to love the people around you. It’s about loving those people enough to help them see their need to love and obey God. It’s about bringing them to the Savior and allowing Him to set them free from the power of sin and death and transform them into loving followers of Jesus Christ. It’s about glorifying God by obediently making disciples who will teach others to love and obey God. (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p. 44)

This is what I’ve been trying to encourage my readers to do in previous posts (Speaking in Truth, Burning One, & All-Embracing Love); to teach and share the message of Christ out of love for the lost!

And finally, Francis Chan encourages us to teach by example. Oddly enough, the passage of scripture I read today was Romans 2:17-19, which asks us how can we call ourselves wise teachers of the lost and yet do everything that we teach others not to do?! In other words, it calls us hypocrites! Romans 2:24 states “As it is written: ‘God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.'” This was written to the Jews, but I feel like this can most certainly be stated today. Many non-believers see all the things people who claim to be Christians do and say, and figure they’re no different from non-Christians; but this is not what God intended! Remember, we’re supposed to be holy and set apart. We’re supposed to be different. We’re supposed to be following in Christ’s footsteps. We cannot make disciples if we’re not living the life of a disciple.

Francis points to Hebrews 13:7, which states “remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” New believers need godly examples to follow; and if we’re going to make disciples, we need to be putting our faith into practice so that others can imitate our faith. As Francis Chan states, “this doesn’t mean that you need to be perfect before you start. Perfection is a lifelong process that won’t end until eternity (see Philippians 1:6 and 3:12-14). But it does mean that you need to ‘count the cost’ (see Luke 14:25-33) and allow God’s truth to change your life” (p. 47).

If we want to see transformation in the lives of others, we must allow transformation to occur in our own lives.

Well, that concludes our discussion of Multiply this week. Stay tuned for next week! Take care and God bless.