Friday, October 13, 2006

Inadequacy--an opportunity to trust God

This past weekend I had the privilege of sharing at 3 services at my home church about how our lives can intersect with the lives of those who are oppressed and what we can do to respond to breaking the chains of oppression. My main desire was that people would see God’s heart through what I shared and that it would be His words that would touch people. I was completely overwhelmed by the response by many who came forward offering their skills, their finances as they caught the vision of investing in ‘one child at a time’. I went home feeling exhilarated and thankful for what the Lord had done. I began to pray over the names of people who signed up and the others who I had had conversations with ---to be entrusted with encouraging others to be involved in standing for God’s justice and to be His voice to the voiceless is quite an unbelievable task.

Yesterday morning as I awoke feelings of inadequacy came over me as I thought of the ‘pioneering’ work ahead. Yet the Lord in His love and graciousness sent two timely reminders that were a source of encouragement and blessing to me to keep pressing on and persevering. One of these reminders came from an email I received from those on the front lines who are directly involved in the battle to end child prostitution. The comments were like life to me. This is what was shared at a recent gathering of agencies in Cambodia.

In the corporate worship time we were reminded of Psalm 24 and that Cambodia is the Lord’s and all that is in it; and that we are a generation that will seek the Lord.

*Also from 2 Corinthians 5:18-20. We have a ministry of reconciliation. That God reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and that we can share that with others. That families will be reconciled through our ministries, kids to their fathers and fathers to mothers etc.

* We were reminded of the army in Joel, who worked in unity. There was prayer for the unity of the body of Christ and unity within the coalition. John 17:20-26.

*There was a reminder in the ministry of building the capacity of the local staff to take on God’s vision. Call forth the teachers, preachers, evangelists, prophets, apostles etc.

*Also, one person felt that some people feel inadequate to do what God is calling them to do. They reminded us that God requires only an open vessel which He will fill. You do not have to have all the answers. Your ministry will come from your communion with the Lord.

*Walk in authority, compassion and power.

*Enjoy the Lord.

*Believe in God for great things!

*Putting on the full armor of God & stand firm in the battle.

*To be committed to praying for one another.

*Our God loves us with an everlasting love.

*Fill your minds with the things of Phil. 4:8.

But if this wasn’t enough to keep moving forward, I went to my weekly bible study at my pastor’s house. This week starts the first of 10 weeks in which our whole church will be studying ‘Believing God’ – a video bible study series that was developed by Beth Moore one of my favorite bible teachers. At the study the Lord encouraged me from the words of Joshua 1:3-5 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Great Sea [a] on the west. No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.

It is a reminder that this is God’s work and that He will raise up the army, He will open the doors and He will be with me throughout the process. These are not new words to my ears but they serve as a reminder that my focus needs to be on Him and not the ‘work’. The promise land that He has for me is one that requires I keep stepping forward into my ‘Jordan river’ and that I keep believing His promises despite the challenges before me.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"What Is That to You? You Follow Me!"

Today I received an article from one of my favorite authors, John Piper. I thought I would repost it here on my blog as a reminder to myself about comparing to others. I hope you enjoy it.

John 21:18-22

After his resurrection from the dead, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. He answered yes three times. Then Jesus told Peter how he would die—apparently by crucifixion. Peter wondered about how it would go with John. So he asked Jesus, “What about this man?” Jesus brushed off the question and said, “What is that to you? You follow me!” Here’s the whole interchange.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:18-22)

Jesus’ blunt words—“None of your business, follow me”—are sweet to my ears. They are liberating from the depressing bondage of fatal comparing. Sometimes when I scan the ads in Christianity Today (all ten thousand of them), I get discouraged. Not as much as I used to twenty-five years ago. But still I find this avalanche of ministry suggestions oppressing.

Book after book, conference after conference, DVD after DVD—telling me how to succeed in ministry. And all of them quietly delivering the message that I am not making it. Worship could be better. Preaching could be better. Evangelism could be better. Pastoral care could be better. Youth ministry could be better. Missions could be better. And here is what works. Buy this. Go here. Go there. Do it this way. And adding to the burden—some of these books and conferences are mine!

So I was refreshed by Jesus’ blunt word to me (and you): “What is that to you? You follow me!” Peter had just heard a very hard word. You will die—painfully. His first thought was comparison. What about John? If I have to suffer, will he have to suffer? If my ministry ends like that, will his end like that? If I don’t get to live a long life of fruitful ministry, will he get to?

That’s the way we sinners are wired. Compare. Compare. Compare. We crave to know how we stack up in comparison to others. There is some kind of high if we can just find someone less effective than we are. Ouch. To this day, I recall the little note posted by my Resident Assistant in Elliot Hall my senior year at Wheaton: “To love is to stop comparing.” What is that to you, Piper? Follow me.

What is it to you that David Wells has such a comprehensive grasp of the pervasive effects of postmodernism? You follow me.
What is it to you that Voddie Baucham speaks the gospel so powerfully without notes? You follow me.
What is it to you that Tim Keller sees gospel connections with professional life so clearly? You follow me.
What is it to you that Mark Driscoll has the language and the folly of pop culture at his fingertips? You follow me.
What is it to you that Don Carson reads five hundred books a year and combines pastoral insight with the scholar’s depth and comprehensiveness? You follow me.

That word landed on me with great joy. Jesus will not judge me according to my superiority or inferiority over anybody. No preacher. No church. No ministry. These are not the standard. Jesus has a work for me to do (and a different one for you). It is not what he has given anyone else to do. There is a grace to do it. Will I trust him for that grace and do what he has given me to do? That is the question. O the liberty that comes when Jesus gets tough!

I hope you find encouragement and freedom today when you hear Jesus say to all your fretting comparisons: “What is that to you? You follow me!”

Learning to walk in freedom with you,

Pastor John


© Desiring God
By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: Email: Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700.

Thanksgiving 2006

Today is the Thanksgiving holiday in Canada. It is nice to get this extra day just to rest but this morning as I awoke and lay in bed I began to think of all the things I was thankful to God for. So often in our busy lives we do not take the time to stop and reflect on God’s goodness to us. I wonder if we did this on a more regular basis whether our hearts would be filled with more gratitude and less envy or discontent. At any rate, today I felt prompted to sit and write the many ways that I am thankful to God.

I am thankful to the Lord for:

• Dying on the cross for my sins and for His resurrection that I have new
life in Him
• Choosing me to be part of His family
• His love and grace
• Gift of family and friends and their continual support and encouragement in
so many ways
• Gift of my church family and pastors who demonstrate and model servant
• Friends that I have accountability with and for the wisdom and discernment
He has given them to challenge me and to speak His truth into my life
• Purpose and meaning He gives to my life and the passion He has placed in my
heart for those who are broken and oppressed
• His faithfulness in fulfilling His promises to me
• The visions He inspires me to pursue
• The privilege I have of partnering with Him in His Kingdom purposes
• My health
• My ‘day’ job which I consider to be a blessing since it is my hobby
• Friendships that have been difficult and challenging for in and through
them I have learned much about myself and about Him in the process
• Encouraging me to take risks on His behalf
• The opportunity to invest in the lives of young kids and to discover His
love through them
• The opportunities to be His voice to mobilize and encourage others to be
involved in building His kingdom
• Modeling to me what it means to endure the cross for the ‘joy’ that was set
• The strength He gives me to keep running the race despite the obstacles
• The abundant life I have experienced through and in Him

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Holy Moment

Last Friday Sept, 29th I went with a bunch of friends to see Anne Graham Lotz, Billy Graham’s daughter speak at The Just Give Me Jesus revival event that was being held here in Toronto. It was an evening event and it was an opportunity for all the women to bring their friends and associates to hear the gospel the first night. The arena was practically full with over 19,000 women and a scattering of men filling the pews. Anne herself is a prolific speaker and the anointing that is on her father is definitely on her. She was bold as she presented the gospel and talked about Jesus. It is easy for those of us who have heard the gospel message to tune out and yet she has a way of weaving in new truths in the gospel stories. But then again, isn’t that really the amazing thing about God’s word that it is living an active and can speak to old and new believers! What hit me though was something that happened near the end of the event as she gave an altar call, inviting people to come down and receive Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. Several women came down the aisles but at one point it appeared as though some people were leaving, probably wanting to get out of the stadium to beat the congestion. Anne noticing this, spoke up and said very wisely ‘can I encourage those of you who are leaving to stop and stay till the end, this is such a holy moment and would you sit and just cheers those who are coming down the aisles as a sign of encouragement to them.’ She was right, this was a holy moment, with streams of people heading down to the front till there was no space. I have no idea how many came down but it had to be over 1,000 people either recommitting their lives or giving their lives to the Lord. It is not often that we have the privilege of seeing so many make a decision for Christ and it was a special moment to cherish as we cheered old and young alike with our claps as they came down the steps. The clapping would subside and then another round of clapping would start up again. This went on for several minutes as more and more women, some coming by themselves others with their friends. It was an awesome sight to see and I couldn’t help but think, how the angels, how the saints in heaven must also be cheering on these new ‘family members’. And yet in all of this, I thought to myself isn’t it just like us to miss God’s ‘holy moments’ because we are so preoccupied with our own agendas. We are so concerned about self preservation or inconvenience or we are so focused on our own needs that we miss out divine moments to encourage and build up others and in essence we miss out on God’s blessings all because we are consumed with our own selfish desires. It was a stark reminder to me, to keep my spiritual eyes open so that I do not miss these holy moments. But it also served to remind me to take time to soak and rest in the Lord and to treasure such ‘holy moments’. To not feel rushed because of external pressures but to truly taste, savour and receive all that the Lord wants to give us before we ‘move on’ to the next season! In a society that is so performance driven, the hardest thing to do is sit still. Someone once said it takes more strength to do nothing than it does to do something. I concur with that especially given my own nature to ‘do’. But in this month of ‘silent/sabbatical rest’ I am discovering more and more the joy of resting in Him without feeling guilty. There is after all a time to be Martha and a time to be Mary.

Richard Foster in his book Celebration of Discipline says that loneliness reflects inner emptiness while solitude is about inner fulfillment. As I ponder what it means to have ‘inner fulfillment’ I suspect it has more and more to do with a deep seated satisfaction and contentment in the Lord regardless of what is going on in the external environment. It is abiding in Him in such a way that our personal worries or the worries of the world do not encroach and overwhelm us. Rather, we leave them at the foot of the cross so they do not weigh us down. I can’t help but think that that inner fulfillment is tied very much to God’s glory as I recall the words from John Piper ‘God is most glorified when we are most satisfied’---may it be so Lord in my life and in the life of all who are followers of you Jesus, that as we each pursue the callings You have given to us, may Your name be so glorified because we are experiencing daily satisfaction in You regardless of the tension of living in this world but not being of it!May it be that through this process of reflection, of solitude, of rest that we view them as holy moments to enjoy Your presence anew and to taste and see afresh that the Lord is good indeed!