looking forward

Looking Forward…

The New Year.

New years are a gift from God. They allow us to separate one section of life from another.

In that separation, we evaluate what has been, and we anticipate what may be. We also put behind us that which we cannot change, while remembering acts of God’s faithfulness that made the year what it was. There is significant spiritual and emotional benefit that comes from such reflection. As we have walked with the Lord in faith, we will have grown in appreciation of the ways of God, and in love with His unchanging character.

New years also give us a very welcome and predictable new start. I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions, but I always am glad for the hope and anticipation that each new year brings. Personal change can and will occur. Opportunities to significantly serve the Lord do and will arise. Our ultimate salvation will be nearer for us than when we first believed.

New years also remind me that life, in essence, is daily. I often think of the Lord Jesus, sent by His Father on a mission which lasted 33 years. The overall plan was clear to Him … the Father had prepared a body for Him, a body of complete sacrifice. He would live sinlessly, be the Anointed One, would suffer and die; and then rise out of death into life. He would ascend back to His Father in heaven. All that was clear. The day to day plan was communicated to Him in times of communion with the Father, according to Isaiah 50:4. For Jesus, life was daily. Life is also daily for us … Matthew 6:34.

I could not have predicted most of the events of 2012 on December 31, 2011. Neither will be able to predict most of the events of 2013. But that is no worry, the Lord knows the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done (Isaiah 46:9-10).

Jesus has called us to a life of trust, a life of faith. He has called us to believe what we believe.

I have no New Year’s resolution, but there are two things I would love to see happen in my life in 2013. I want to pray more than in 2012.

I also want to drink more water.

Blessed New Year to each of you. May God bless us all, every one.

Battle-exposed servicemen receive it, why not missionaries?

My final post of 2012 will be brief, very brief.

In fact, as you’ll see, it is actually the posting of one long, complicated question that I am personally trying to find an answer to as the new year begins and I continue in my efforts to encourage and equip the leaders and the members of local churches to care for their own members who serve as missionaries.

If the government of the U.S. and a large segment of the U.S. population have begun to take seriously the need to provide specialized attention and care for service men and women who have served in battle, (and no one seems to disagree, including pastors and leaders of local churches), then why don’t those same pastors, leaders, and church members recognize that their fellow church members who have gone to live and serve in various places around the globe and have been engaged in the battle for the souls of men and women, might also need some special attention and care?

Answers are welcome and will be taken very seriously.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Godly Fear (part 2 of 2)

In my last post I discussed many Scriptures that tell us about the reality, the need, and the purpose of a proper fear of the the Lord. It’s probably best to skim back over that again before reading on.

There is a stigma and negativity attached to the word “fear” that is normal in most senses. But many people, especially in western cultures, have forgotten about “good fear”. Similar to the good fear that encourages your feet to not fall of the edge of the steep slope, that warns your “gut” about impending danger, or that tells you that playing with a rattle that’s still attached to the rattlesnake is deadly behaviour, their is a good fear that keeps us close to our good Father.

With those things in mind, I want to share a story that not only helped me to teach “good fear” to others who were asking during a study of the Psalms many years ago, but also helps me to remember and apply it myself even now.

It was several years ago while teaching at the first church plant I was involved with in the San Diego area. I found myself trying to explain the concept of fearing God and the usual struggle that Christians have with the idea of fearing God: that they have also learned from Scripture that God is their father who loves them, so why on earth would they fear him?!

That’s a great question, and one that’s valid. Why would God give us His word and through it teach that we are His beloved children, and then tell us that we are supposed to fear Him?

Normally when something just doesn’t seem to make any sense at all, the problem is either one of communication or culture, both of which are part of our worldview. This is the lens through which we understand the things that we interact with in life; be they speech, written words, people, body language, images, sounds, etc. In this case — at least for myself and most people I’ve known in the U.S. — the idea of “fear” is totally contradictory to our idea of love. So when we hear the phrase “fear God”, we normally envision a powerfully awesome and angry God who is about to smite a whimpering weakling of a human. But why? Why is that image, or one similar, the way in which we automatically conceptualize fearing somebody? The answer to that could take weeks of posts on a blog, so I’ll leave it for now. But suffice it to say that this paradigm of ours, one that automatically evokes images of trembling, despair, and woe when the idea of fearing another is mentioned, is not what the Bible is advocating or instructing when it tells the believer to fear God. In fact, I hope that with this personal story I can help us see that we actually do understand the other aspects of fear, we just don’t think of them often because of our worldview: one that teaches us from an early age to disregard and suppress this good fear because it may be mistaken for weakness.

So several years ago, as I was sitting on a wooden swivel stool before a small group of believers gathered together for a mid-week Bible study, the Holy Spirit suddenly brought a story to mind. A story that aptly portrays the kind of godly fear that keeps our hearts in check, provides the basis from which wisdom and knowledge can blossom, and yet does no violence to our fragile concept of the love that God has for us and towards us. As I opened my mouth, the Spirit brought this story to remembrance:

When I was just a young boy we would often drive from the San Diego area up to Los Angeles to visit my grandparents. I would often spend several weeks or more each summer with them, and because of this I had made a few friends on the street where they lived. One summer my father came up to spend a few days visiting before taking me back home with him. I was a few doors down the street on my bicycle, playing with a couple of the kids from the neighborhood. We were in the driveway of the home of one of the kids I knew when these two scary looking teenagers approached on their bicycles. They had long hair and black t-shirts with Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath logos, and they stank of cigarette smoke. They were probably only 16 or 17 years old, but I was only about 10 at the time so I felt fearful at their sudden appearance.

As they rolled up on their cool bicycles they began talking to one of my friends. I just assumed that she knew them but wasn’t sure. One of them pulled up right next to me and was looking at my bike. It was a cheap bike — one of the store brands — but my aunt had it painted for my birthday so it would look more like the expensive Diamond Back bicycles of the day. I then saved up some lawn mowing money and bought a Diamond Back brand bar cushion and cover — you know the kind made of foam that wrapped around the top bar and then had a cover that wrapped around that secured with velcro. It was the best I could do to make my poor man’s Diamond Back look legit.

After a few uneasy minutes of visiting us, it looked like these two potential trouble-makers were going to leave. But just as they were leaving, the one who was right next to me reached over and ripped off the Diamond Back cover from my top bar and then sped off with it. I was in shock! I was angry and hurt and confused. I couldn’t believe what had just happened.

The thing is… it only took me about two seconds to figure out what to do about it. That’s right. GO GET DAD!

I rode my bike fast and hard down the street and ran inside to get my dad. He was napping in the guest bedroom but was already waking up by the time I got into the room because of all the commotion and crying on my way into the house. He asked what was wrong and I told him what had happened. He then got a look on his face that etched itself into my memory like the bright spots that burn into your retina after looking at the sun. It was a look that I, myself, would come to understand and develop my own version of as I got older, got married, and had my own children. It was the look of a father who was ready to defend and meet out justice on behalf of his son. A father who’s primary goal in life had just shifted from all of the typical cares and responsibilities of fatherhood to one single all-consuming goal: find the people who did this to my son and right the wrong!

We hopped into the old, green LTD and pulled out of the driveway. One of my friends had carefully ridden down to the end of the street to see which way the thieves had gone and relayed that information to my father. We headed off after them. Watch out Hawthorne!

At the end of the street we turned left, and then continued for a couple of blocks. My dad decided to turn right and search down the street at the third block. After one block I saw up ahead on the right-hand side a few teenagers rough-housing in the front yard. As we got a little bit closer I told my dad, “That’s them!” I was sick to my stomach with nervousness.

My dad drove past them to the next intersection and then turned around. He went back and parked on the opposite side of the street from their house. I can still see his face and hear his voice decades later. “Stay in the car, son. I’ll take care of this.” That look on his face… that tone in his voice… they caused a distinct reaction throughout my whole being that can only be described as fear. And yet… I wasn’t afraid of him. I was just fearfully cognisant of who he was and the power that I saw in his demeanor and attitude.

My father crossed the street and walked directly up onto the grass where the three teenagers were wrestling around and listening to music on a boom box. I couldn’t hear the first few words spoken, but I could see my father’s face and the shocked and confused faces of the boys on the lawn. Then my dad looked down and saw my Diamond Back bar cover on one of the bikes on the lawn. He asked them, “Did you steal this from my son?” The fear billowed up inside of me at what would happen next. I thought I was going to explode. One of the boys got an attitude and answered back, “No, that’s mine!” WRONG ANSWER!

With that lie, my father stripped the stolen item from the bicycle with one hand, picked up the bicycle with the other hand, and then proceeded to HURL the bicycle from the middle of the front lawn all the way across the lawn, the sidewalk, and the street, so that it landed clear across on the sidewalk just in front of our parked car where I sat in complete awe and fear of my father’s strength and authority. That bicycle must have traveled a distance of forty plus feet in the air before landing in a mangled mess. (Did I mention that my father was a fireman and a carpenter with arms and a chest like Popeye’s?)

As my father began his walk back to the car, my recovered possession in hand, I distinctly remember the fear, the awe, the reverence and wonderment at what had just happened. I didn’t fear my dad as I would if I had just been caught skipping school and lying about it. I didn’t fear him the way an abused child fears a drunk father when the knob of the front door begins wiggling as dad gets home from the bar. I didn’t fear him in any way that made me want to run or hide or separate myself from him. Rather, I feared him in a way that made me want to slide over to the middle seat so that I could be closer to him. I feared him in a way that made me want to shout, “That’s my dad!” I feared him in a way that caused a deep respect and honor for him; the kind of respect that drives a son to please his father and never be the cause of his just discipline.

That, I believe, is the fear of the Lord described in Scripture. Our heavenly Father is awesome! He is mighty and powerful and just. His authority is final and his action without repentance. AND HE’S MY DAD!

I fear Him in such a way that I want to get closer to Him and enjoy the benefits of sonship. I fear Him in such a way that makes me tremble for those who would defy Him, blaspheme Him, and challenge His authority. I fear Him in such a way that I have the utmost honor and respect for Him and would never want to run from His presence and behave as those who are not His children, and receive His swift discipline in order to save my soul from my self.

Fear God, brothers and sisters. He is awesome. He is just. He is mighty. He is holy. He is great.

He’s my Dad… and I fear Him.

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Merry Christmas!

On behalf of Cross Connection Network, I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas.  I assume that many of the readers are men who serve Christ sacrificially in the ministry.  I’m typing this blog Saturday night.  I’m swamped.  I am ready for Sunday morning, the event Sunday night, family is coming over Monday, and I’m planning on preparing for the Christmas Eve service sometime between now and then.  I’m looking forward to Christmas morning, as it will mark the beginning of a couple days off.

If you are reading this on Christmas morning, enjoy your day of rest…I’m sure it’s long overdue during this busy season.  I’d like to encourage you to shut down your computer, your phone, your iPad, and all electrical devices.  Disconnect with the world for a day and enjoy your family.  That’s my plan!

Merry Christmas brothers have a blessed day!

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Key Insight into the End of the World Calendars

The APOCALYPTIC PROPHECIES, a doomsday publication (EVENT bookazines, 2012) about the predicted end of the world on December 21, 2012, states this about the Mayan calendar that begins on 3104 B.C. and ends with December 21, 2012:

The long count calendar was used to predict the future, and its built-in cosmic clock that runs in 5,125-year cycles has long been thought to end in catastrophe. With the long count they were able to determine and follow time back to 3104 B.C. – 3000 years before Christ – although scientists and historians today are unable to come up with a practical reason for going all the way to that trouble. Why should they care?(Page 10)

The Mayan civilization, inhabiting present day Guatemala and other South American states, had its heyday between 250 A.D. and 900 A.D.

The puzzling question is why their calendar goes back to 3104 B.C.

Not only does the Mayan calendar begin with 3104 B.C. but also other ancient civilizations have a similar starting date. The Hindu Kali Yuga calendar began on February 18, 3102 B.C. and is predicted to usher in the Golden age about 5113 years later taking us close to 2012.

So why the mysterious beginning of their calendars around 3102 –3104 B.C?

No one seems to have a clue.

Could the Bible have a clue?

As a Bible-believing Christian I am convinced that the Biblical world history is the accurate one. Moses wrote Genesis as world history by divine inspiration. Christ, the Son of God, endorsed it. By contrast the histories of many ancient civilization are not fully trustworthy as the historians who wrote them did not have access to accurate information or the commitment to truthful recording. For example, some civilizations exaggerated their antiquity to claim that theirs is the oldest civilization.

According to Biblical history, the present world hails from the Genesis flood which had destroyed the entire world except the eight-member family of Noah. The date of the flood, according to the genealogy in Genesis 5, is 1656th year of Adam. That was in the 600th year of Noah. So Noah’s birth year is 1056th year of Adam.

How long ago was that from today’s date? Many Bible scholars have calculated the date of Adam ranging from  4004 B.C. (Ussher Chronology) to 4175 B.C (Dr. T.V’s approximate estimate). So the date of Noah’s birth must be 2948 B.C to 3119 B.C. It is therefore reasonable that 3104 B.C. is close to the date of Noah’s birth.

Why is this date important to ancient calendars?

ALL present day civilizations hail from the time of the Genesis flood. Noah was the oldest living human being after the flood. Descendants of Noah would spread around the world and would found the various civilizations. Egyptian civilization, for example. Indian civilization and Mesoamerican civilizations are other examples. When they date their civilizations they know that their oldest ancestor was Noah. It is customary that they take the year of the Birth of the first King as the year of their origin. Thus Noah’s birth year would naturally be claimed as the date of their civilization. And that is around 3104 B.C.  This, I believe, solves the mystery of the beginning year of modern calendars.

Interestingly, it is NOT the predicted end-of-the-world date of December 21, 2012 that is important. Almost all authorities are now agreeing that the predicted doomsday of December 21 has no significance. It will pass without any major event. What may be really significant is the beginning date of these ancient calendars that points to the Flood of Noah as a momentous world event. And it was indeed the end of the pre-flood world! Jesus said that “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man” (Luke 17:26). The Second Coming of Jesus is the really serious End of the World event we should be concerned about. It will usher in the New World, the Golden Age of Christ’s Millennial reign on earth (Revelation 20:6)

 

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tvT.V. Varughese Ph.D. received undergraduate degrees in science, astronomy, and education and a masters degree in Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Kerala.  In 1971 he received a second masters degree and a Ph.D. in mathematics from Indiana University, USA, where he later served on the faculty.  He has taught in India, Ghana, and in the U.S.A. He is the founder and president of International Discipleship Ministries Inc., and has authored its Ministry Leadership Institute’s MasterDesign for Life courses for discipleship and equipping which are being offered in the U.S. and in the 10-40 nations.  Dr. Varughese and his wife Miriam live in San Diego, California.

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A Sobering Look Inward as a Parent

The tragedy from last Friday in Newtown is still bouncing around my mind. When I saw images of the children I literally lost my breath. It’s unexplainable and so sobering. We have seen tragedies like this at college and high school campuses but never something like this at an elementary campus with children so young. It provoked emotion in our nation that  hasn’t been seen in awhile. My heart and prayers go out to this community because it will be a long recovery.

Events like these always spark a debate nationally over things like gun control and mental health. I am not going to wade into that. What I would like to discuss is the personal level of this event.

On Friday I was spending the day with my wife down in Santa Barbara while my children were in school. No sooner had I arrived downtown that my phone started blowing up with texts, tweets, and emails about this event. It was hard to get an understanding because we weren’t near a TV but we got the kist of what was going on. You could almost feel the mood switch on State Street from jovial rushed holiday spirit to one of sobering reality.

When I got home they were reporting on the shooter and his family. They described his troubled youth, withdrawal from school, and his very quiet but brilliant nature. They were associating him with previous shooters at places like Columbine. As a person who has been in ministry close to twenty years and worked with youth for over half of that I recognized this type of kid immediately. What the news described as mental illness resides in millions of teens today. Sadly many young adults feel the way this young man feel but almost all of them don’t act on it. Many harbor thoughts of doing harm to people who have hurt them but never follow through.

I am of the belief that this could’ve been prevented. I am not talking about counseling or even intervention. The seeds of this behavior are planted early. Let me explain. You often see the beginnings of this type of behavior early on. Left on it’s own it only manifests itself. There are some things that can trigger it later in life, like in this situation the divorce of parents, but often you see the acting out of the child from the early stages.

This results a lot from the behavior of the parents. What I am about to say is probably controversial and even offensive but needs to be said. There is a lot of selfishness in parenting today that produces a lot of acting out by children. Let me give you an example. Tuesday night I was at my son’s basketball game. There are several players on the team that are behavioral challenges. The coach spends as much time chasing after these boys as he does coaching the team. On Tuesday the team was on the floor playing and these three boys were on the bench. They decided they were bored so they left and wandered into the lobby. The coach had to chase after them. The funny thing that all three parents were sitting right by the entrance to the lobby and didn’t stop them. Shocked? It’s really becoming the norm in youth sports.

There was a mother who was totally disinterested and by her body language didn’t want to be there. There was the mother who had her nose in her phone and wasn’t aware of anything going on. Finally there was the mother who had a glaze over her eyes and had checked out. There wasn’t one father present.

I think these three are perfect examples of why children are turning out the way they do. Whether it be disinterest, distraction, or disengagement all point to a parent that is more interested in themselves than anything else. I am not naive, parenting is the hardest work anyone will ever do. It totally wipes you out and never stops requiring more. I think that is what catches many of these parents off guard. For some reason they think they can go on living like they did before they had children. You Can’t.

Parenting takes everything you have and then some. If you don’t rely on the grace and power of God you aren’t going to make it. That said there are some things need to be done by parents that only parents can do. I want to suggest three:

  1. Discipline: What I mean by discipline is not punishment but consistency. I heard a great definition of discipline the other day; “Discipline is the consistency of actions and values over a long period of time.” Children need that kind of discipline. They need constant reinforcement of action and values to produce consistency. That means that they go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the right time every morning. They complete their school work and show up to commitments on time. Actions like these produce discipline that produces improvement.
  2. Behavior Modeling: Every child that I see who could fall into the dangerous category has behavioral issues. By this I mean that they tend to be shy and reserved. This is normal in most children but can be improved. They do this by watching their parents talk with adults and when they interact with adults they are made to respond. If an adult greets your child make them respond in a polite and respectful way. Shyness can be an excuse that many deviant behaviors are rationalized.
  3. Expectations: I am blown away at the lack of standards children have today. Hold your children to expectations. This may mean behavior, academics, sports, relationships. Parents are becoming more and more weary of confrontation with their children and so let them do whatever they want. When my children are playing a sport we have certain expectations of how they should play. It has nothing to do with stats but with effort. We have the same expectations with how they deal with their peers and adults. If you fall before these expectations we are going to tell them. Children are always testing to see what they can get away with. As parents we have to maintain a level of expectations with our children. They may resist but every rebellious soul resists what is right. We have to be that standard bearer in our children’s lives.
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The Only Hope That’s Left

For many years, I have pondered and taught on the inevitable downward spiral that takes place within a culture that suppresses the truth about God. Romans 1:18-32 tells the story. It is social and spiritual devolution—it’s God giving people what they want. They want a life without Him, and He gives them over to their own desires.

Living in a culture like Romans 1 describes is difficult and painful. The greed, murders, and all kinds of evil wear people down. “Life” becomes increasingly unlivable. People don’t feel safe, loved, or optimistic about future prospects. It can become a grind to just get up out of bed and face each new day. It’s not a pretty picture.

Romans 1:18 says that this downward spiral is the present manifestation of God’s wrath. God is angry at ungodliness and unrighteousness and the effort to avoid and ignore truth.

How are Christians supposed to live in such a place? Let me offer a few suggestions, if I may:

  • We are not to become self-righteous, but rather brokenhearted and empathetic. Romans 2 describes the moralist, the one who thinks that because he is able to criticize the sins of Romans 1 he is somehow exempt from judgment himself. We can’t be that guy. We need to follow Jesus, the One who wept over Jerusalem and paid for the sins of the whole world. We need to be like the Father, who is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
  • We should engage the people living with us in this corrupt society, not withdraw from them. It would be easy, and is no doubt tempting—to isolate, move, disengage and remove ourselves entirely. But that would be a complete failure on our part to obey Jesus’ commands to be salt and light.
  • We should see the degradation of the culture as a great opportunity. The light of the gospel shines brightly in the darkness. The opportunity to be healed sounds wonderful in a hospital of sickness.

We really do need to be like Jesus. Jesus came as a missionary to this sin-laden planet. He was sent by His Father. He listened to His Father, He watched His Father, He obeyed His Father, He operated by the power and authority of His Father.

Now He turns to us and says, “As the Father sent Me, even so I send you.”

Therefore, we are sent by Jesus as missionaries. We are to listen to Him, watch Him, obey Him, and operate by His power and authority.

We’re the only hope that’s left. Christ in us is the hope of glory. There is no Plan B.

Response to the Connecticut School Shooting

Just like many of you, I’ve been deeply affected by the tragedies in our country this week. I’m sure that by now, many of you have heard the tragic news of the elementary school shooting in Connecticut. At the time if this writing there are almost 30 dead, gunned down by a young man in his early 20’s. Combined with the recent Clackamas Town Center shooting that hit us so close to home, it’s shocking to consider the complete disregard for human life that we have seen this week. These horrendous happenings, as well as a multitude of other similar kinds of events, can leave us terrified, bewildered and sad. How do we process all of this?

The world is sinful. It is broken. It is full of pain. But brothers and sisters, as Christians, we must never forget that we hold in our hearts the answer to what ails a broken world: the Love of God, through the finished work of Jesus Christ, applied by the Holy Spirit. This is the Gospel…and this is the only real hope of humanity.

When tragedy strikes, we see the world’s need for the life giving message of Jesus. There is much work to be done, and the darkness seems to be more emboldened with each passing year. But we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

Finally, let us pray for the victims family’s of such tragic events. Let us also pray for the perpetrators and their families as well. Pray that God will bring beauty out of ashes. I do not always understand prayer. But I know that it works!! Will you join me now in prayer?

In this Christmas season, when peace on earth and goodwill toward men should reign, let us be an instrument of God’s peace, when the world around us is full of panic and fear.

Let me leave u with a verse from the Apostle Paul, from 1 Corinthians 15:

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Bagging on a “Para-church organization”? Don’t make me “Go Mordecai” on you!

Rant warning…..rant warning……rant warning…..rant warning…..rant warning…..

The next time I see a pastor raise his eyebrows or roll his eyes or cock his head and then with a smirk say something like, “that’s a PARA-CHURCH-ORGANIZATION”, with disdain in his voice, I’m not sure I’ll be able to restrain myself from going “Mordecai” on him.

So in order to restrain myself, I want to “Go Mordecai” in this post and get it out of my system.

First, my guess is that compared to most pastors, I spend a large portion of my time swimming in the sea that is dominated by Para-church Organizations, (PCO’s).  By and large, the vast majority of what’s taking place in the missions world is being accomplished by PCO’s.  And not just the missions world, but also the campus ministry world, the prison ministry world, the bible translation world, and so forth.

When I went into pastoring full-time more than 27 years ago, I didn’t really know what a PCO was.  But it wasn’t long before I began hearing what other pastors thought about PCO’s.  And honestly, very little, if any of those opinions were positive.

When I asked some of the pastor-friends why they seemed to be so critical of these obviously God-used entities, I was told things like this:

1.  PCO’s aren’t really biblical.

2. PCO’s exist to exploit local churches for their people, their money, and their connections.

3.  PCO’s divert church member’s attention, loyalty, time, and gifts away from the ministries of local churches.

4.  PCO’s are too agressive about marketing their vision and raising the funds that enable them to accomplish their vision.

5.  PCO’s say they encourage their workers to be a healthy part of a local church, but then operate in ways that actually undermine the very ingredients necessary to be a healthy part of a local church.

And you know what?

Over the years, I’ve learned that many of those criticisms, in many cases, are actually somewhat accurate.

But the reality is this:  PCO’s exist and are doing amazing things.  And God is not just tolerating their existence or  begrudgingly permitting them to do what they do.

He’s blessing them and the work they do in amazing ways–almost as if He Himself had something to do with their actual creation.

He did.

I believe He did so for many reasons, but at least one of those reasons comes from what He revealed about Himself in the book of Esther.

If you’re one of those pastors or church leaders or whoever, that believes God’s plans and purposes in this world would be better served by PCO’s making an exit from this world, I will now “Go Mordecai” on you by sharing some of my observations from the book of Esther:

God had sovereignly placed her in a strategic position in the midst of an unGodly environment…..kind of like the church.

And yet in the midst of the unGodliness, the Lord blessed her with incredible privilege and a degree of power and access to resources that few others in the kingdom possessed….kind of like the church.

But God had a specific purpose for her being there.  His plan and purpose was not just to bless her and make sure her needs were met.  She was there for a purpose larger than her own interests.

Eventually, God used a pressing, life or death type situation in the lives of others,  and her uncle Mordecai’s wise perspective on the whole situation, to unveil His invitation to her to now become part of that larger purpose that He had always had for her.

Here’s what Mordecai, outside the palace, told Esther, inside the privilege of the palace, by way of Hathach, a Eunuch that the King has assigned to her as her servant:

Esther 4:13,14  And Mordecai told them to answer Esther:  “Do no think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews.  For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish.  Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Here’s what bugging me:

1.  The church, comprised of those who are His people, who have been “saved”, especially in America, is an incredibly privileged position and possesses an incredible amount of resources.  Those resources are amazingly diverse, (money, business expertise, vocational expertise, educational expertise, life-experience expertise, family-raising expertise, medical/dental expertise, and so forth).

2.  We have His Word and we know that His desire is for all men to be saved, (1 Tim 2:4).

3.  We know that Jesus commissioned His church to GO and to make disciples from among all of the ethnic groups that He has created and scattered around the world (Matt 28:18-20, Act 17:26).

4.  And we know that He will accomplish His “end game” and that He WILL receive worship from every ethnic group that He has created, (Rev. 5:9, 7:9,10).

I don’t believe that I’m stretching it when I say that Esther and local churches today have some sobering things in common:

–Both are in a privileged position, even in the midst of ungodliness–in a sense, living the “palace life” while the majority of the rest of the occupants of the world, including other people of God, are struggling to find food and clean water on a day to day basis.

–Both have daily access to incredible resources that few others could ever dream of.

–Both have all of this BY GOD’S DESIGN.

–Both have been given an opportunity by God to be an integral part of the “relief and deliverance” that He is going to accomplish for His people, (those that know Him already AND those that are His even though they haven’t heard the gospel yet, whose deaths are imminent).  See Acts 18:10

–Both need to know that they have been placed in the privileged position they occupy for “such a time as this”.

–Both need to know that He will accomplish that “relief and deliverance” through other people that do recognize and seize the opportunity He has placed before them to be part of this amazing work that He is going to do.

–And both need to recognize that there are serious consequences for NOT participating–their own imminent deaths.

I believe that God meant what He said when He told Esther that He’d bring relief and deliverance for His people from some other place.

We don’t know what that other “place” that God would have used actually was because Esther, after seeking prayer and knowing the risk to her own life, actually seized the opportunity.

But we do know what God used–that “relief and deliverance from another place”, when the leadership of many of His local churches balked at getting on board with His plans and purposes.

He created PCO’s.

It reminds me of Acts 8:1,4

Those that knew Him the best and were the most equipped and that heard from His own lips the commission to take the gospel to the whole world, couldn’t be budged, even by persecution, from the comfy confines of the area around Jerusalem.

So what did God do?  He used others, probably brand new believers to take and preach the gospel across geographic and cultural boundaries.

With all of the above as the back drop, here’s what I’ve observed:

Leaders of churches tend to be overly critical of the very things that God has brought into existence because those leaders  haven’t taken seriously the things that God says His people should be interested in and participating in.

I spend a large majority of my time trying to help pastors and church leaders see the importance and the value of being an integral part of God’s heart for the world that He has so clearly revealed in His Word.

And the vast majority of them not only ignore me and the other churches and PCO’s that are participating substantially, they actually go a step further and question the need of PCO’s to even exist.

The dots don’t seem to connect for many of those who have this attitude.

The reality is that PCO’s obtain a portion of their reason for existence because of the unwillingness of local church leaders to seize the opportunity that they and their churches were created for.

Like Esther, they are in the position they’re in “for such a time as this”.  But they don’t recognize it.

Instead of bagging on PCO’s, maybe they should follow Esther’s lead and pray diligently and then take a risk that might cost them their very lives as they mobilize their resources for those that God is going to deliver with or without them around the world.

Ahhhh, I feel so much better.  I’m now one more step away from having to “Go Mordecai” on a fellow pastor or church leader.  :–)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Godly Fear (part 1 of 2)

Hundreds of times the Bible instructs others and us to NOT FEAR: don’t fear circumstances, don’t fear people, don’t fear the unknown, don’t fear difficult things, etc. But the one singular consistent thing that we are to fear… is GOD!

Psalm 33:8 — Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!

We’ve all heard it said: godly fear is a great awe or reverence. Like watching a very large storm with raging winds, lightning, and thunder. But I believe that to be a very simple, incomplete answer. It’s so vitally important that we get this one right. Let’s look into it a bit further.

Proverbs 1:7 — The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

There is no real foundation for understanding and knowledge apart from a proper fear of the Lord. Without it all knowledge and understanding is fatally flawed:

  • origin sciences
  • psychology
  • astronomy
  • physics
  • chemistry
  • history
  • medicine
  • ethics
  • business
  • Theology
  • How to Make Disciples
  • How to Plant Churches
  • Preaching and Teaching
  • Blogging 😉

Proverbs 23:17 — Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day.

To envy the ungodly means that you don’t trust the Lord; His plan, His purpose, His will. In order to truly trust the Lord you must properly fear Him.

Matthew 10:28 — And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

To fear anything or anyone else other than God is to not understand Him and trust Him. God alone is the ultimate authority and nothing will happen without His sovereign permission or decree. He alone should be feared, not any person or circumstance.

Matthew 28:8 — So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 

Here we see “fear” and “great joy” in the same context! What kind of “fear” is compatible with “great joy”? The kind that recognises the awesome power of a God-man who can resurrect to life and is overjoyed by this reality. Proper fear of God doesn’t reduce our ability to experience the joy of the Lord… it heightens it. It both primes it and catalyses it. A proper fear of the Lord is like oxygen to joy’s flame.

Mark 4:35-41 — On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” 

Fear of everything else but God is lack of faith in God because you don’t really know Him (“who then is this”). Conversely, to truly know Him and His character, and therefore truly trust Him, a proper fear of God is required. More than required, it is a natural antecedent to faith.

Mark 5:35-36 — While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”

Again we see the dual opposites: fearing man/circumstances/world is the opposite of fearing God. To fear man/circumstances/world is to think only carnally and put your faith in the things of this world which fail, rot, lie, hurt, and die. To fear God is to put your faith in Him and His perfection, sovereignty, power, love, grace, mercy, and will.

Luke 1:46-55 — And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” 

Here we see the relationship between fear and humility which leads to God’s mercy. We cannot properly fear God unless we are humble. It’s interesting that the Bible does not list humility as a gift of the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t talk about asking for humility. It only speaks of doing it:

  • Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Pet 5:6)
  • Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5)
  • “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”. (James 4:6-7)
  • Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (James 4:10)
  • “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” (1 Pet 3:8)

Luke 7:12-16 — As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!”

Their reaction to witnessing the power and majesty and authority of God was a fear which lead them to glorify God! Proper fear of God leads to proper worship of God.

Luke 8:37 — Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned.

There is an opposite reaction to witnessing the power and majesty and authority of God. In this case the people were not humble and therefore they didn’t express proper godly fear and submit to the power and majesty and authority of God. So instead of proper fear which leads to proper worship, they were fearing the wrong things (a fear of how God might ruin or interrupt or change their lives), which lead to the opposite of worship… rejection.

Luke 23:39-43 — One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” 

Here again we see the dichotomy of proper and improper fear. One criminal fears death. He is thinking only of self and carnal things. He lacks the humility to admit his sin and fear God. The other criminal humbles himself, fears God, and asks for forgiveness. This man has a proper fear of God, based in the humility of knowing that he is a criminal and Jesus is the Judge; he is a vile sinner, and Jesus is a pure and holy Saviour; he deserves death and wrath, but Jesus does not, though He suffers it anyway.

Acts 9:31 — So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.

Here we see the connection between a proper fear of the Lord and the growth of the Church. Just as proper fear requires humility and leads to faith, God’s mercy and salvation, and encourages proper worship and joy for the individual believer, so it does the same for the corporate body of believers, the Church. The health and growth of the church was and is directly related to the proper fear of the Lord.

Acts 10 – This chapter tells the story of the Centurion who, along with his entire family, FEARED GOD.

Peter says that “in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to Him.” Cornelius and his family have a proper fear of God which leads to salvtion and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon them.

Romans 8:12-17 — So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 

Those who walk in the flesh are slaves, seized with fear. Those who are sons and heirs of God are not seized with fear and do not walk in the flesh because the Almighty, powerful, majestic, awesome, glorious, merciful, gracious, loving, holy God of heaven and earth is their “Abba”! And yet they do fear Him.

So it seems clear to me that there is a kind of fear, truly fear, that is not only good, but a natural antecedent to salvation and true faith. In my next post I want to look at an example that may help us regain the ability to recognise this “good” fear, and embrace it fully in our faith and practice.