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Category Archives: Quotes

Faithfulness

Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) is credited with founding the modern nursing profession. Late in life, she was asked about her life’s secret. “Well, I can only give one explanation. That is, I have kept nothing back from God.” Florence never claimed to be highly gifted. She once said, “If I could give you information of my life, it would be to show how a woman of very ordinary ability has been led by God in strange and unaccustomed paths … God has done all, and I nothing.” The key to her success was not her ability but rather her availability to God. At the age of thirty, she wrote in her diary, “I am thirty years of age, the age at which Christ began His mission. Now no more childish things, no more vain things. Now, Lord, let me think only of Thy will.”

Cited in Deuteronomy: Loving Obedience to a Loving God (Preaching the Word Commentary Series), by Ajith Fernando

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2017 in Ministry, Quotes

 

The Power of God

It never ceases to amaze me how various parts of Scripture all dovetail together to communicate the same theme. I am preaching this Sunday on Numbers 11. I am teaching Awana T&T next Wednesday on “God is All-Powerful.” I am also studying Jonah for our next elders & wives Bible study. All three point to the power of God.

In Numbers 11, Moses listens to the complaints of the Israelites and begins to doubt God’s ability to provide for Israel’s needs. God rebukes his lack of faith with the statement, “Is the Lord’s hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not” (Numbers 11:23).

In the Awana lesson, God’s power is displayed over nature (Jesus calming the storm, Matthew 8:23-27), sickness and disease (Jesus healing a blind man, John 9:1-12), and death (Jesus being raised from the dead, Matthew 28:1-8).

In his commentary on the book of Jonah, Dr. Charles L. Feinberg explains why the story of Jonah is often rejected.

Ridicule has especially centered around the swallowing of Jonah by the fish and his preservation in it. The root of the difficulty is the denial of the miraculous. But if we exclude the miraculous from our Bibles, how much of it do we have left? And more important, what kind of a God do we have left? It is nothing less than shortsighted unbelief to think that the difficulty is solved by the removal of this miracle from the book of Jonah.

Scripture speaks volumes about our almighty God, for whom nothing is impossible. As Dr. Feinberg so rightly pointed out, if we remove all the miracles from the Bible, we don’t have much left, and we certainly don’t have a God worth following. No thing and no one is more powerful than our God.

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2017 in Quotes, Scripture, Theology

 

Why am I not surprised?

One week ago, I met with our church leaders to talk about vision and direction. I shared my perception that we were a busy church, but not necessarily effective or fruitful. I spoke of my concern that we were too inwardly focused and overemphasized fellowship. I believe we need to be more purposeful and intentional in making disciples and reaching the lost.

On Sunday, I preached on Exodus 19 and how to prepare to meet with God. (It’s part of a series on the life of Moses.) I emphasized that before entering God’s presence, we should ask ourselves four questions—Am I willing to obey? Am I ready to listen? Have I prepared my heart? and, Do I respect God’s presence? Several mentioned how much the message challenged them. One said it was the best message they heard me preach in the five years I’ve been at the church. Several gave me hugs. One said as long as I keep preaching like that, I was their pastor. I continued to hear affirming comments a few days later.

On Monday evening, I began a new class, the Character & Habits of a Leader, part of a strategy for church-based leadership development. 17 people were present for the first session with two more who will join us for the second lesson.

On Wednesday evening, we launched our fall ministries with Awana, youth group, adult Bible studies, and a prayer group. We had 90 children in Awana with 30 in the youth group. A significant number came from the surrounding neighborhood. The building was hopping!

In addition, we also started two new adult Sunday School classes with a third one coming next month, as well as our women’s Bible studies starting again for the fall.

God is on the move at First Central Bible Church. So much good ministry is taking place.

So, why was I surprised when an individual wanted to meet with me to share what they perceived were my weaknesses as a pastor? Namely, that I was a “good to great teacher, but don’t exhort,” and that I was not outgoing enough and don’t work the room to greet every person (not their exact words but my takeaway.) I responded in two ways. First, I thanked them for what they shared and said I would have to think and pray about what they said. Second, I said that I have been told all my life that I don’t have what it takes to be a pastor and I am tired of hearing it because it is wrong. (For more on that topic, read my blog post on October 26, 2012, “Learning it’s ok to be me.”)

Why am I not surprised … whenever we take a step of faith … whenever we share the gospel … whenever we begin to be successful … whenever we challenge people to serve or share their faith … whenever we begin to make progress and move forward … the enemy seeks to discourage, distract, and sideline us.

On the one hand, I know that criticism comes with the territory. In the words of Rachel Dawes to Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, “You’re Gotham’s D.A. If you’re not getting shot at, you’re not doing your job.” On a more spiritual side, the apostle Paul said that we have “conflicts without; fears within” (2 Corinthians 7:5). Criticism is one of the occupational hazards of ministry, even more so in today’s culture.

On the other hand, I am human and freely admit that criticism stings, especially from those within the body who really don’t know me. To be honest, I briefly contemplated walking away into the sunset. Rather than quitting, however, I simply decided to take the day to work at home.

I am reminded once again that this is a spiritual battle. I know that I need to stand firm and resist the temptation to feel sorry for myself and/or flee the battlefield (James 4:7). Like King David, I need to find my strength in God (1 Samuel 23:16). As a steward of God’s ministry, I need to stay faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2). If I want to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant,” then I need to be faithful to serve God with whatever he has entrusted to me (Matthew 25:14-30). As my mentor Kent Hughes used to say, “I need to believe what I believe.”

Time to put my soap box away, armor up, and get back to work.

 

Transforming lives through strategic stewardship

Book Review: A Disruptive Generosity: Stories of Transforming Cities Through Strategic Giving, by Mac Pier

A Disruptive Generosity: Stories of Transforming Cities Through Strategic Giving by Mac Pier is the follow up to his previous book, A Disruptive Gospel. In the first book, the author lays out the philosophy and strategy to using generosity to reach cities with the gospel. In this book, he tells stories of how it is taking place.

In this volume, the author weaves together three big ideas.

The first is God’s vision for the world as referenced in the book of Isaiah. Isaiah gives us the big picture of a God who comes to transform cities, who causes nations and nature to rejoice in him. Isaiah announces the coming of a Savior who will be the ultimate expression of the generosity of God in the gospel.

The second is that of movement. A spiritual movement is taking place when the Christian population is growing faster than the general population. A movement is taking place when the church is making an impact on the great social realities of a city or nation. A movement is taking place when Christian leaders are finding themselves in places of cultural influence.

The third big idea is that of a relational network, a movement of friendship.

The book contains 31 chapters in which the author interviews 40 leaders in 10 countries around the world who are using generosity for the sake of the gospel. While you can easily read the book in one sitting, you could also read one chapter a day over the course of a month and let the stories sink in. The interviews and stories are designed to encourage the reader to think of creative ways to use their own resources to help fuel the advance of the gospel.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2017 in Books, Finances, Generosity, Quotes

 

The challenge of missions in China

Book Review: Dragon Ride: True Stories of Adventure, Miracles, and Evangelism from China, by Grace Jacob

When the Iron Curtain fell in the early 90’s, one of my mentors with Walk Thru the Bible Ministries lived in Moscow for several months. He was there to help set up the infrastructure for an outreach known as the CoMission. He commented that living in Russia was a full-time job. Whatever ministry you accomplished was gravy because it took all your time and efforts just to live there.

I was reminded of this comment after reading the book, Dragon Ride: True Stories of Adventure, Miracles, and Evangelism from China. Grace Jacob and her husband, Justin (not their real names) were missionaries in Hong Kong and China for 29 years. The book gives insight into the challenges of daily life and the persecution, sometimes subtle and sometimes overt, that missionaries face in a closed access country.

The first half to two-thirds of the book describes the challenges of daily life—securing jobs, finding apartments, dealing with unreasonable landlords, finding adequate health care. The remainder of the book describes some of Grace’s evangelistic discussions, Bible studies, and outreaches to university students.

Towards the end of the book, Grace explains how her ministry in China shaped her.

I was so blessed to have been able to spend 29 years of my life in Hong Kong and Mainland China, making Chinese friends, and speaking the dialects of their hearts. They opened up to me, and I opened my heart to them.

My Chinese friends taught me about love and committed friendship. They taught me the graciousness of gift-giving, lavish hospitality, and the importance of properly saying goodbye to the ones you love.

My Chinese Christian friends showed me how to suffer for my faith.

I came to their land, which is now my land, as fully American—I left as part Chinese.

In the great land of China, I came to know my God. Seeing him through the eyes of Buddhists, idol worshippers, atheists, Muslims, and an animist gave me an awe for the beauty of the God I worship. Living in the crucible of China, I came to know his great love for us and the power he uses on our behalf. Being stripped of the safety zones in live, I learned to pray and to trust the Lord; being stripped of pat answer, I came to know his Word.

The book is written in a simple, straightforward manner. It struck me as a cross between a newspaper article reporting the facts and reading someone’s journal. While perhaps not the best written book, I found the stories interesting. They dovetailed with what I have heard from other missionaries over the years.

I received an e-copy of the book from the author for the purpose of review. The opinions I share are my own.

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2017 in Books, Missions, Quotes

 

Embracing failure

I came across two statements on failure today. One was in a comic strip and the other in a novel. Both emphasize the importance of embracing failure, albeit for different reasons.

“In order to welcome redemption, one must first embrace the utter hopelessness of failure. For how can a man look for rescue unless he knows he is truly lost?” Stephen R. Lawhead in Pendragon (Pendragon Cycle, Book 4).

Until you admit you are a sinner, you cannot be saved. Until you confess your sins, you cannot be forgiven. Until you acknowledge your weakness, you cannot receive God’s provision.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9–10)

Perhaps failure, or at least acknowledging and embracing it, should become our signature move.

 

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2017 in Quotes, Scripture, Zits

 
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Why trust when you can worry?

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2017 in Quotes, Tim Challies