Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Buisness and the Gospel.

By: Daniel Martin

 We can all think of televangelists with golden toilets and jumbo jets when we start thinking about people who put a price on the gospel.  The Devil holds great sway on those who are greedy and selfish, but I am going to bring up something a bit more subtle that he is able to distract many good people with.

When we started this ministry, we were stepping out in faith; we sold our little single wide 1973 mobile home, I quit my job and got a C.N.A. license (my “tent making skill”) and my wife sold her business. Still with all of that, we didn’t have much too our name. We left for Mexico and started Morning by Morning ministries. It was all happening so fast; we had our little boy who by then was only 17 months old. My wife was suffering from terrible sore inflicting brake outs on her hands (we now know due to hormone fluctuation), caused by pregnancy. We had lost friends in the previous couple of years, both through death, and relationships that turned out to be more shallow than expected. With all of this there was a hope that God could scrape things together for us, and our pursuit of Him by faith.

 Our family was great source of encouragement but we felt the rub of discontentment as if God wanted us to have more of our time dedicated to Him. The sermons we heard, the books we read; and the scripture we frequented all had in common one thing. God wanted us to trust Him and serve Him whole heartedly, even dedicate our lives to foreign missions. So we went. God provided. There was often just enough every month to make it. There were times that we had to cut back allot just to make it down here in Baja. But we knew God wanted us here. We have to live by faith, in God’s provision. We have to take steps of faith, where life feels uncomfortable and awkward to grow. That is the only way God would have it, because He is lovingly The LORD.

I am 32. In my time I haven’t seen as many things as some have. I will tell you this though; I know that life is hard and full of hills and valleys. I also know that no one wants to have to struggle and to suffer. That isn’t a bad request; but if that’s your goal, it will fall short of proper motivation, because this isn’t heaven. Our struggle and our suffering might show us where our confidence lies. Trials can benefit you by building your trust in the Lord all the more. You might find that, in a strange way, with all of your trouble, God knows what He is doing and you can trust Him. Nobody likes to be on the short end of the stick in life. Nobody wants to have needs. But no matter what you have or don’t have, God is truly always the provider.

 Almost anywhere you go in life you will need to have some kind of finances in order to survive. I know that there might come a time in our ministry when we will be very successful and well-funded. For some people that is when the trouble starts for the Gospel. You can start with something really good, like living by faith and trusting Jesus, out of necessity. Then over time you can come to a point when you start trusting in finances. That is the Devils tool. Using something we need to take our eyes off of the provider of it. The earth is the Lords and everything in it. There is nothing wrong with money itself or any other earthly thing. There is something terribly wrong about not recognizing God as the provider of every good thing.  Scripture is full of warnings about treasuring money in your heart. Mathew 6 :24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Also see these verses (1 timothy 6:10, 2 Timothy 3:2, Hebrew 13:5, Proverbs 13:11). The big problem is when we place money or our ability to accumulate it in a title that only belongs to God: “The Provider.” God might give us money and abilities that we might be a good steward of it. Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father above.

 Our finances, desires and abilities have ebb and flow as well. There are days when I am more or less able. I have some great raw talent that the lord gave me, some weeks I have lots of time and drive and right now financially I am doing well. I didn’t get to choose any of those things. Including how much money I receive either. God is no worse or better on all of life’s ebb and flow. Someday I am going to be old and worn out. My charming personality and good looks might be, unhealthy and in the “no spring chicken category.” “Though outwardly we are wasting away”… is a promise that is for everyone. Very many people think that they get to choose how much money they make. After living in Mexico I can tell you differently. Many people here have the kind of work ethic that would get you a mansion and a sports car in a well off country. They brake their backs there whole life with no retirement and still are just scraping by. Hard work, good stewardship, patience, wisdom and know how, should all help a person flourish monetarily. That isn’t a promise though. Have you ever done a job that was a breeze and get more than you felt you deserved? What about faithfully doing a job that leaves you completely exhausted, maybe with physical and emotional scars? Have you felt cheated by such a job? You put in everything and came out with very little. I’ve had my share of both in life. I didn’t get to choose who I was in life, or the majority of my life circumstances.

Most of us think about our future hoping optimistically that we move to a better and better status. Keep in mind that if you can walk around, have eyes that work, you have a roof over your head, or a mind that has some kind of grip on reality: to someone else you have “super powers.” Think about the lame, the blind the poor, and the mentally challenged. They didn’t get to choose, there position in life either. I had a friend named David who had M.S. He was barely able to move. He did everything he could in life to be a light for Jesus. He was a great testimony to me because he refused to think about all of the things he couldn’t do. He wrote a book that he typed himself with one finger and one letter at a time. It was the best work on suffering I will ever read because I know that not a word of it was trite. There was nothing that David said in that book that didn’t come from personal experience. His life is a testimony of someone who has so little but has invested everything here for God. Just a thought for all the healthy wealthy type preachers: I know who has the big money in the kingdom of heaven.

I had an interesting experience at Missionary school. They had us grow a vegetable garden out in swampland to simulate agricultural husbandry for our perspective countries. It was time consuming task that was added to the long list of other things we had to do. We were supposed to use one of our three hours of free time to go out in the boonies and water our perspective gardens. Here’s the catch.  There would be discipline if our vegetables didn’t grow, because it was supposed to show if we were faithful at gardening or not.  I chose cucumbers and I only watered them a hand full of times. They were out of control and growing everywhere. There were other students that were very faithful but there vegetation still died. In the end what I am saying is that its God that makes stuff grow. It’s not up to our skill, time, talent or effort. God still uses all of those things.

Unlike the previous example; God is more interested in our effort than the result. God is the one who makes anything out of our labor. You can have all your ducks in a row and still have nothing happen financially. God is pleased with your effort, and has promised to take care of you and reward you. Trust Him keep doing the right thing, you don’t know what awaits you in heaven.

There are people who make money so easy it’s like they sneeze and hundred dollar bills pop out. If that is where there trust is, it will fail them.  Money, abilities, and even pleasures mean nothing without their provider. God the provider is the reason we live and breathe and have our being. If our trust is in the gift and not the supplier we will lose hope when the chips are down. Our heart should be the heart that Job had when he says “LORD gives and the LORD takes away, blessed be the name of the LORD.” Or like Paul, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Our misplaced focus can happen so subtly though. We can start with ministry and end up in a business and not even know how it happened. You start with your mind focused on the spiritual, with trust and faith, and you end with your mind focused on the physical, with fear, and worry lording over you. Sometimes you can start with the Gospel; which make much of Christ, and end up with a non- gospel, which makes much of you. You start to franchise and make your name or the name of your organization, bigger and bigger. It turns into something that looks like an industry; one with a brand name that has become parasitic to itself. You have to get more finances and more money to do things only you think you can do. This kind of thinking happens to everyone, but it takes everything away from the focus of the gospel and our labor.  It’s God who provides. So it’s God who gets the glory. We serve God not because He needs us, but because we get to serve Him. God has no needs. That is one of his attributes. Another attribute He has is compassion. He loves us and wants us to be a part of what He is doing in a world that has rejected Him. We get to be a part of Gods work and it’s for our benefit not Gods. God simply knows what’s best for us.

Allot of times we can get to a point serving the Lord when our heart is completely good, but we start to lose our focus. We start something, our heart in communion with the Lord. We see a need that God desires us to fill and we go fill it. We become so successful at what we are doing that we want other people to be a part of what we do as well. We want them have the tools that we have learned through our hard work and experience. This is also a part of Gods plan and is a really positive thing. Then overtime and little by little, the focus can get shifted onto “Our Ministry” and off of “What pleases God.” We start thinking to ourselves, “Other ministries don’t know what we know and don’t see the big picture. We aren’t like “those Christians.” Minor differences become a reason for you to have major separations.

There is a good kind of separation in the church. It’s a separation that has to do with leaving heresy and immorality out of the picture. It is being righteous and calling a spade a spade for the good of all and the health of the church body. We don’t want the wolves to outnumber the sheep because of lazy shepherding. We don’t want to be wimpy when harmful false doctrine will help people sin in the name of Jesus. Being separate and not a part of such things is exactly what God wants.

There is also a good type of separation for the case of distinction. Our organization doesn’t currently build houses in Baja. For some reason that is what everyone thinks that I do when I say I am a missionary. That being a missionary involves some sort of construction. I think that building houses for the poor in Baja is a huge and a nearly inexhaustible need. It is a necessary and wonderful thing that many have decided to fill as a calling for their life. It’s exactly what God wants and demonstrates His heart because He left all his glory in heaven and came and lived with us and is building us a home. He took us out of our poverty and provided us with things that we couldn’t attain on our own. It speaks amazingly about Christ’s love when we help those less fortunate in any way. However, I know that building homes is not my primary calling.  I am good at grunt work and have assisted on a few projects in my life. Most of my time at missionary school was helping construct one thing or another. Although the truth is I am not a builder. If people were to ask what I did with my life never would I bring into my identity that building had anything to do with who I am.

It took me so long to figure out where I was gifted because my idea of serving the Lord was always wrapped up in what church culture thought that actually meant. There are a lot of people who would think of a calling like some kind of vocation; like it’s something that you get to chose. Not everyone is meant to be a pastor or an evangelist or a whatever. God made the different parts of the body to function together. Having a specific niche in ministry isn’t wrong; it might be exactly what God wants.

You might be around people who you would love to be close with, but are just on a different wave length. You see them as fellow believers and followers of Christ but don’t have much common in how do things. Their calling is not your calling. Neither of you are doing something wrong you just do things a little differently.

Let us not be separatists because we think we are better. Let us not be separatists when we don’t need to be. As Christians we need each other. We need to work together for the same goal: “For the salvation of the lost and the proclamation of the name of the LORD.” Let us not be so concerned about who is on our team, and whose team we are on. We all have the same captain, so it’s for His glory. Let us all avoid talking about how great our organization is and how we really “get it” or that we are the ones with the lords “blessing.” Unless there is a major reason we shouldn’t work together, let’s work together were we can!

Have you ever had a friend that you knew that was kind of dorky and that people didn’t get along with just because they were different. You chose to be a friend anyway and found out what a long lasting helpful friend they were. Were you ever in high school and felt like you had to do something stupid and out of character to fit in with the cool crowd? You realized it wasn’t worth your time and they were kind of snobby anyway. Aren’t we all glad when we find new ways of getting together with people that aren’t so different after all? If we can work together out of a heart to serve the lord let us as the church be about a united front against the enemy.

Making the Gospel a business and thinking on selfish terms is something that God hates. Think of the money changers in the temple and how Jesus responded to them. Or, think of Ananias in acts that lied to the Holy Spirit and made the giving platform at worship service about how great he was. This kind of selfishness makes God look cheap and God hates it. Can you imagine what God will say on the Day of Judgment to people who misused His name to make a profit on the televangelist scale?

Let us keep a pure heart and not have our focus swayed by our income. Money is a necessity, business happens, but God is the provider. None of our faculties mean anything without the Lord. The difference between humanitarian aid and mission work is the gospel. There are large organizations that don’t want God but want to be worshiped doing “good things” all over the world. As Christians we do the same stuff, but God gets the glory. He was the one who gave us the ability in the first place so the focus has to be on Him. May we all grow bigger and be more able, but keep our focus on the goal, glorifying Christ and filling this world with people who have given God there life, and we will see heaven.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Loss of a Prayer Warriors

By: Rachel Martin

I recently lost one of my prayer warriors.  She passed away at 72 years old of complications from surgery.  I don’t like to romanticize the dead so I will say she was an interesting lady and could sometimes be difficult.  However she had some things down.  She prayed for everything.  I once saw her pray for a parking spot and have a car pull out right in front of her to give her a prime spot in front of a store.  Whatever this women prayed would happen.  She prayed often and like so many prayer warriors I have met with that light in her eye that said she knew God would answer. 

I wonder now.  Who will take her place?  Not selfishly, although I will miss her prayers on my behalf as well as her prayers for my family and friends. I know I have plenty of people that pray for me and my family.  Her passing got me thinking about this……… As these old sages pass away.  The ones that have things like the importance of prayer figured out.  Who will be replacing them?  The truth is that as the baby boomers die, such a large group of people, we of the younger generations need to start picking up the slack double time not less.

I know and understand the issues that keep us from time with our Lord.  We wrestle with new larger growing sin issue in our culture.  Stuff our predecessors never had to deal with.  How do I explain that the use of drugs in my home state are legal but not appropriate for my son for example?  Strip club billboards, sexualized children in toy commercials, and the state of a world seemingly on the brink of war?  We have a lot to figure out and deal with in this generation and it’s only getting worse.  Although I am pretty sure this does not allow us less time in prayer but actually necessitates more.

We are busy.  It is the nature of our lives as younger people.  We don’t have as much time as those that are retired or at the end of their working career.  I know it often slips my mind with my busy life and other stuff rumbling around in my head. We work 8 to 6 a full week long and I am sure most of you do the same.  However I am also pretty sure that this is not an excuse for not picking up the cross of the older generation when they pass and spending time in prayer.

Young people, this is a call to arms for you specifically.  Lest you think I am leaving you out I am talking about you teens, 20s, 30s, 40s.   The older folks don’t’ get to have the whole line on this one. We cannot just, figure the old ladies with time on their hands will do it?  I think if you ask my 
mother (not saying your old mom) she would say she has no time in her busy life and yet she finds time to go before the Lord for more than just the things we consider super important.  No time in our life is not an excuse.  She would say that her life is just as busy as mine or at least close to it and she finds time to pray.

I could quote to you tons of verses about how God asks us to come to Him in prayer, how God listens to us, about how it is not only a blessing but a privilege.  About how prayer actually works and what a beautiful thing it is to come before the one true God and speak with him personally.  However I am assuming you already know those things.  I am making the assumption that you know you are supposed to be praying you just forget or need a reminder or some encouragement.  So here it is.  Here I am reminding you that we need to pray because we can’t keep relying on the older generation to do it for us.

I am asking you, please, will you join me in praying for our country, world, leaders, families, poverty, thwarting of Satan, those you love, those I love, and those in pain or need?  Salvation of those you love, growth for those saved, jobs for families in need, the little things and the big things that people ask of you?  Will you pray for the families that are left behind because of the death of their prayer warriors?  It was a hard thing for me to say, yes I lost a prayer warrior but now who will pray for her family.  I know they have no more family in their life that are saved so I am pretty sure I just got another family added to my full time prayer list.  And in all honesty I find it an honor and privilege.

I know it seems daunting that is why I suggest doing something to remind you to pray.  I am a big fan of doing whatever works.  I made a “prayer board” most people call them dream boards.  I cut out pictures from magazines, wrote phrases, put up pictures of family.  I put that ugly thing on my bedroom wall so I would remember to pray for all those things when I wake up in the morning.  (by the way it has been super powerful to see my prayers answered by looking at the board and actually seeing the fruits of my prayers) I have written endless lists and put them all over my house and yes including the bathroom.  I have asked my husband to keep me accountable.  And yes it stings when he asks and I have forgotten to spend my set aside time in prayer for a while. Are you a tech person?  Put a prayer list as your wallpaper on your computer.  Set daily reminders on your phone.  Do whatever you have to, to remember to pray.

Let me leave you with this.   One of the very best things in this world.  One of the things I love more than anything.  Is seeing your prayers answered.  Pray, watch God work, enjoy the fact that you get to be a part of it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Back Yard Missionary

By: Deborah Coon
I am not a missionary and I’m pretty sure I don’t ever want to be one. I can guess those sentiments are yours as well so we can sit back ,relax and let someone else do that job…unless of course, you take what the Bible says seriously.

“Go into the world and preach the gospel, be ready to give an account for the hope that is in you, let your speech be with grace, seasoned with salt, ready to give an answer to all men, be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks for the reason of the hope that is in you.”

Oops. Sounds like missionary work to me…

So the truth of the matter is ,that while some people do pick up their cross and go, the majority of us stay home and have to figure out what those Biblical commands look like in our daily lives right in our back yard.

There seems to be a common viewpoint of what giving the gospel should look like which I find difficult to adhere to. The opinion that each time you witness to someone the words should be the same, is a tough one. Yes, we need to know absolutely what the true Gospel is and we should give it without adding or subtracting anything from the truth however, life isn’t always tied up in a neat little bow.

As personal experiences go, probably the most difficult time and least effective deliverance of the gospel for me, was when I went to a conference for a well know evangelist. We took classes and were trained ahead of time as to what we were allowed to say. We were to give the gospel in their written words and nothing more. A young woman was assigned to me, a woman with questions and pain in her eyes. I was bound by my contract not to go this way or that, not to engage, not to encourage, or empathize.. My words were chosen, memorized and nothing more. I left feeling I had failed her and that she had not gotten the answers she came for. I still pray for her, the lovely brunette woman with big brown eyes.

I’ve learned a few things in my old age.

The gospel is simple, don’t mess it up. Listen to the people God has placed in your path before you speak.

On vacation several years ago, a homeless woman was deposited at the edge of our condo each morning with her dog, a box of cornflakes and a quart of beer. A local man was taking her home each night and letting her sleep in the back of his car where she would be safe. In the morning, he gave her those few things and left her at the beach. I spent some time each day sitting with her ,listening to her story. She told me how she came to Hawaii, about the letters and gifts she sent to her son in California and how much she loved him. She told me that he ignored her letters and gifts and wouldn’t have anything to do with her and that she loved him anyway and continued to send him gifts .

The gospel is simple.

The last day of our vacation I sat by her side to say goodbye and spoke firmly saying, “I’ve spent all week listening to you and this morning, it’s your turn to listen to me.” I had respected her and in return, she respected me by listening, and I gave her the gospel. I told her that her Father who was in heaven loved her, that he had sent her the gift of salvation through His son, and that He had written her a letter, in the form of the bible. Like her son, she was ignoring her Father‘s letter. I took her story and gave it back to her, in the form of the gospel. I met her where she was experientially using her words and experiences to understand the gospel. It was simple. She understood.

It’s been 15 years and I still wonder about her. Is she alive? When she writes a letter to her son, does she remember our conversation? When she sends her son a gift, does she remember that her heavenly father sent her a gift? Each time she has pen in hand, is it a reminder of the gospel, freely given by a stranger she met on the beach? I won’t know till I get to heaven myself one day, she’ll either be there or not. It is not my job to drag her to heaven, it is my responsibility to give her the gospel in a way she could understand and I did that.

Does the gospel “look” the same each time I give it to someone? Well , that’s sort of a yes and no answer.

Does the content of the gospel change? No.

Does the way I unwrap it change? Absolutely.

The way I delivered God’s message to a homeless woman in Hawaii was not the same way I gave it to a young engineer  who sat next to me on a plane to Arizona and his way was not the way I explained it to a young Buddhist in my writing class who spoke very little English .

Each time I travel, God puts someone in my path. At home, the gospel should be delivered by the way I live my life and there are a million different ways we can invite a conversation about Christ. A kind word, a casual “I’ll be praying about that,” or a mention of church on Sunday, may seem insignificant to you but you’ll be amazed to find out who’s paying attention.

So smile at the grumpy cashier, thank  the tired waitress with her tip , let someone go ahead of you in line and let your light shine because you see, we’re all missionaries, the harvest is ready and it’s right here in our own back yard.