Overwhelming Odds vs. Overwhelming God

2 Chronicles 13 tells the story of King Abijah of Judah, the great grandson of King David. Abijah and his army had gone out to battle against the army of Israel led by King Jeroboam. Militarily, the prospects of victory could not have been worse for Judah. The Bible tells us that Abijah’s army was outnumbered two to one. Can you imagine standing on Judah’s side? As you realize that the enemy has fielded two men for every one of your fellow soldiers, you feel the blood drain from your face, your lips grow tight and a cold sweat covers your brow. The pit of your stomach can already feel the enemies’ sword. To say the least, you’re intimidated and very, very discouraged.

Maybe there’s a glimmer of hope. You’ve heard of other battles where superior numbers did not carry the day. But just as you start to recover some intestinal fortitude a report murmurs its way up from the rear guard … “The enemy is also behind us!” Verse 13 says, “Now Jeroboam (the enemy king) had sent troops around to the rear, so that while he was in front of Judah the ambush was behind them.” You are outnumbered two to one and surrounded by a treacherous enemy … all hope is lost.

But that’s not how the story ended.

Judah turned and saw that they were being attacked at both front and rear. Then they cried out to the LORD. The priests blew their trumpets and the men of Judah raised the battle cry. At the sound of their battle cry, God routed Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. The Israelites fled before Judah, and God delivered them into their hands. Abijah and his men inflicted heavy losses on them, so that there were five hundred thousand casualties among Israel’s able men. (2 Chronicles 13:14-17)

Prior to the rush of the enemy, King Abijah had stood on a rocky crag and called to memory God’s covenant with David. Abijah pointed his men to a God who could be trusted and who was mighty to save. In short, he turned their eyes away from the battle field and the overwhelming odds and pointed them to the overwhelming God! The conclusion?

The men of Israel were subdued on that occasion, and the men of Judah were victorious because they relied on the LORD, the God of their fathers.” (vs. 18)

There are no odds that God can’t handle when we rely on him! The odds Sue and I faced in getting to Panama in one month were not as dire as being in a physical battle where you’re surrounded and outnumbered. Still, what had to be accomplished and the time allotted seemed humanly impossible. We jumped into the battle with our hearts and minds reeling. Time and time again we thought and prayed … “we can’t do this, but you can Father.”  God responded to our little faith by showing Himself large. He did immeasurably more than all we asked or imagined! (Ephesians 3:20)

In a little over a month, God:

  • Provided responsible Christian renters for our home, covering our expense so we didn’t have to sell at a loss
  • Paid off our remaining debt ($30,000) through the generosity of His people and our sales
  • Sold our car to an awesome young couple without us ever putting it up for sale
  • Sold one of our two houses in Kansas over the phone
  • Allowed me (and some awesome friends) to finish repairs to our home with no debt
  • Sent an army of wonderful friends to help in practical ways
  • Kept us healthy once we arrived despite our exhaustion
  • Provided people to help us adapt to life in Panama
  • Provided a home and vehicle for our first 2 months … and
  • Found a home for our cat and even allowed her to bond quickly with her new owner.

Yes, God cares about the little things as well as the large … and He can handle them all!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Overwhelming Odds vs. Overwhelming God

Aching for Maturity

There’s a challenge I didn’t expect in raising missionary support. The most common question I’ve been asked by strangers is “Do you have children?” It’s not just a casual get-to-know-you question; they’re asking deeper questions. They’re really asking …

  • How hard will your transition be?
  • Will you have to uproot your kids and separate them from their friends?
  • Will you have our own culture shock, plus theirs, with which to deal?”

In a few cases, people have gone so far as to remark on how lucky we are not to have children. The question and thought are both quite natural and show that people are thinking on a deeper level about the sacrifices associated with missionary service. They express a level of concern that goes beyond superficial.

Here’s the challenge: understanding the motive doesn’t necessarily mean the question won’t cause pain. Receiving a hug when you have bruised ribs produces pain regardless of the loving intentions of the one giving the hug. And here’s where maturity has to speak. Anytime you feel your heart bruised or inflamed by the actions or words of others, it’s wise to ask a couple of questions:

  1. Was their intention to hurt me?
  2. Is there some area that God needs to heal in my soul?

The answer to question one does not determine whether or not you move to question two. The answer to the first question only conditions your response to the person.  If the answer to the first question is “yes, they intended to hurt me” you have to decide between allowing love to cover the sin or going to them in loving confrontation.

Whatever the answer to question one, your pain should cause you to ask question two. Does the fact that I’m hurting or angry point to an area of my soul that needs the sanctifying touch of God’s Spirit and God’s Word?  Let me play this out in my experience of childlessness.

As the years progressed and our married love bore no tangible fruit it became increasingly more difficult to receive birth announcements from our friends. Obviously there was no ill intent on their part … but the pain I felt was real. God taught me lessons about covetousness and rightly rejoicing with those who rejoice. I knew his Spirit was bringing healing and growth as I began to thank God when my friends were blessed with children.

Was I healed? No … every time I heard of a child conceived outside of marriage, I became angry. Sometimes I even wondered why I had bothered following God. I’d have a similar reaction if I saw rough, biker-looking couple with kids. In the first case, I was jealous of people who received the blessings of children outside of God’s plan for the family. I needed Psalm 37 and 73 to straighten my skewed perspective.  In the second case, prayer and genuine soul searching revealed a deep strain of pride. Often my anger came from the perception that I was a better person and therefore more deserving to be a parent. The truth is … God’s still working on these areas. The fact that I’m less likely to move from anger … to depression … to sinful thoughts and actions is a witness of the Spirit’s sanctifying work.

Lately, I find myself worrying about who will love and care for Sue and me when we’re old. The death of my father brought this to the fore and left me feeling sub-masculine because I hadn’t produced progeny to carry on the family name.  Here again God’s Word and Spirit brought me back to the bedrock stability of faith. In the midst of that slough of despond, God brought these words from Isaiah 56 to my attention,

And let not any eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.” For this is what the Lord says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant— to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off. (vv. 3-5)

To say to a barren Israelite in an inheritance based society that they would receive something “better than sons or daughters” was astounding! But those ancient words are no less glorious to me. How merciful God is to speak directly and personally to us through the Spirit’s illumination of his Word! Once again, God’s firm sweet voice echoes through the pages “Jon, follow me! Trust me! Those who hope in me will not be put to shame! I will dry those tears with my own nail-pierced hands.”

The Wiziarde name will most definitely “be cut off” … as will every other proud pedigree among men. But those who place their faith in Christ have been given the “right to become children of God” (John 1:12). How could I hope for any nobler lineage or any grander inheritance?!?

What do you ache for?  What causes your jealous anger, prideful pain or rancorous resentment? Bathe that wound in the living water of God’s Word and the penetrating light of eternity.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Aching for Maturity

A Lifestyle of Leaving

What do you call …

  • Twenty-seven hundred square feet of aged pine?
  • A crumbling foundation buckling inward like an octogenarian’s knees?
  • Damp plaster expanses with varicose cracks revealing age?
  • Asphalt shingles curled by the relentless heat of the Kansas sun?

What do you get when you take an inert structure, fill it with a living family and add years? All those ingredients mingle and morph into something else … something ineffable … something called “Home.”

I just got back from a visit to my childhood home in Kansas. Even now the century-old abandoned structure feels strangely alive. It speaks to me, whispering memories … rummaging through my heart producing pictures of my parents in their vital years. The creaking stairs echo through the house like bits of conversation that I’m staining to recall. The bare polished wood of the newel post at the bottom of the stairs glows with the patina of raucous, laughing chases. The missing panel in the front hall door and that patched piece of plaster in the living room wall produce a visceral melancholy. These are poignant reminders that even in loving families can have real conflict. The pallet of memories and emotions elicited by the visit kaleidoscopes from luminous joy to murky despair, but all are indelible strokes on the canvas of my soul.

I walked slowly around my childhood home contemplating my reason for this trip. We are here to show the home to prospective buyers. It’s all part of the preparation for heading to Panama. But how could anyone else own what I call home? Can you sell an ornery but much loved uncle? Surely the selling severs the relationship! Does something irrevocably change … does some part of you cease to exist? I couldn’t believe the passions and pain stirred at the thought of relinquishing my hold on this old pile of tinder. I looked up at the weather-beaten window sashes desperately in need of a coat of paint and put that on the list of things to tend to. We jumped in the van and headed towards the nearest metropolitan area hoping that Home Depot would have some eye shadow brighten this old lady’s countenance. Sue was in the back seat where she could see her computer screen and get a little work done. I was in the front seat choking back tears and feeling foolish. Why all this angst over letting go?

Honesty reigned as the question hung in my heart. When I purchased the house from my parents, I had dreams of redemption. My heart hadn’t clearly revealed its motives to my head, but it had been plotting a rescue mission. Restoring the old Victorian would capitalize on all that had been good and salve over what had been bitter. Replacing the panel in that door would trump the fearful memory of the angry blows that splintered its wood. Sheetrock replacing damaged plaster would poultice wounded memories of a chair hurled in rage. Reclaiming the kitchen might refresh some of the wonderful laughing recollections … memories that tantalize and draw like the smells of my mother’s cooking. Perhaps if I could bring my family back into that restored mansion it would ease the feelings of isolation that still pursue me from my childhood.

All this time, I had been singing along with the radio, but the words of the songs had simply been falling from my brain and out of my mouth. Suddenly something cracked and the chorus of a song plunged into my consciousness …

All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong

I believe that “Home” is a God-implanted longing. We all want a place of security, warmth, safety and love. We long for shelter from life’s storm … real and figurative. We hunger for a place where friends are always welcome and from which foes are barred. This is what my attachment to an old house reveals … I was created for HOME. What I wanted to recapture … no, what I hoped to create … is not truly attainable in this world for the follower of Christ. We do not belong to this planet.

My parents cataloged their memories according to the addresses where they had lived. It was such a part of conversation that I remember the locations of many places where I never lived … 1802 Boadway … 1306 Fry … The Farm … 430 Harrison. There’s no doubt that we are deeply impacted by the places where we lived, but they do not define us. As a Christ-followers, we cannot be bound by where we’re from … our lives must be defined by our destination. We must live for our home with a capital H!

In Hebrews Chapter 11 we have a list of people who lived for HOME. This chapter, often called “The Hall of Faith,” culminates with these awesome words …

 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.  People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.  If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.  Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (VV 13-16)

I love how God uses the words of songs and his Holy Word to clear our muddled thinking. God has called Sue and me into a new area of his Kingdom work. That means leaving home … to press toward HOME! I came back from Kansas singing a new tune …

All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take the house but give me Jesus
This is not where I belong!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Lifestyle of Leaving

The Caffeinated Life of Radical Obedience

IMG194Here I sit with two of my favorite things; bright warm sunlight and dark hot coffee. It still seems odd to call coffee “a favorite thing.” For forty-six of my almost forty-seven years I liked only one thing about coffee … the smell. Earthlings breathe 78.09% Nitrogen, 20.95% Oxygen and a .93% cocktail of argon and other trace gases. The atmosphere of my memories is coffee: coffee and gasoline at work with my dad, coffee and grease at the small-town diner, coffee and humidified wallpaper in my mother’s kitchen … these are the scents of childhood.

Despite all those good connections, I’ve never really liked coffee. I couldn’t get past the taste. Periodically my taste buds would dangle one toe in the dark waters, but they never had any desire to swim in the stuff. Once when a friend was marveling over the “best cup of coffee he’d ever tasted,” I tried it again … I was rewarded with the same bitter experience I’d had with every other cup.

My relationship with coffee changed drastically in May of 2011. Now I can’t pass a Target Store without wanting to stop … not because I like their trendy merchandise, but because I know they have a Starbucks. I not only like coffee, I like dark Sumatran! One barista heard my conversion story and exclaimed, “Wow, you like went from novice to coffee-snob overnight!”

So … why the change? As my wife and I started down the road toward serving God oversees, we began reading books on missions. One book, commenting on cultural sensitivity, mentioned that in some societies it’s a great offense to refuse a cup of coffee. Knowing that we’d likely be ministering to multiple ethnicities I thought, “I should at least learn to tolerate the taste of coffee.” So, while attending the Missionary Assessment Center, I had my first full cup of coffee. I remember two things about the experience; the intriguing name of the blend (Velvet Hammer) and the incredible sense of mental alertness that followed. I turned to Sue and exclaimed … “This is how people get so much done!” I’ve pretty much loved coffee ever since.

What do you make of the fact that I had to feel the effects of coffee before I learned to like the taste? You probably think that I have a highly addictive personality. Well … I don’t … at least no more so than the other 56% of U.S. citizen who like/need several cups every day. We can call my therapist later … we have something more important to talk about.

I grew up liking the idea of obedience. It was part of the atmosphere of Christianity. In my church it wafted through the air, carried aloft by the strains of songs like “Trust and Obey.” We all loved the smell of obedience … it was the taste we couldn’t stomach. Obedience, we feared, would taste bitter, like sacrifice or deprivation. I say “we feared” the taste, because many of us never seriously tried obedience.

I heard a preacher who didn’t drink coffee say he used to walk around on Sundays holding a Styrofoam cup. He didn’t have any intention of drinking coffee … but he wanted to fit in. We like to talk about submission to God’s will, but stop somewhere short of total immersion. We do all that’s convenient or palatable, but stop short of total abandonment to the will of our Creator. I know I’m being hard on you … US … but sing through this much loved chorus and check it against the reality of your life:

I will worship with all of my heart
I will praise You with all of my strength
I will seek You all of my days
And I will follow all of Your ways
 
I will give You all my worship
I will give You all my praise
You alone I long to worship
You alone are worthy of my praise
 
I will bow down and Hail You as king
And I will serve You, give You everything
I will lift up my eyes to Your throne
And I will trust You … trust You alone

 

Okay … let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt. We love to sing this song … and we even want to mean it. How can we close the gap on obedience so we can sing this song with greater integrity?

Obedience is making our will subservient to the will of God. The human heart is rebellious by nature and will not like the taste of obedience. Drink a steaming hot cup of obedience anyway! Whatever you clearly know of God’s will for your life … act on that! Then act on the next thing. Obedience is an acquired taste! There is a growing excitement that comes with following God, an intimacy that only comes from repeatedly saying, “Yes Lord!” When you feel the effects of obedience in your relationship with God … you will begin to thirst for it. Don’t let your fear of surrender keep you from the one embrace that alone brings peace and security.

The old hymn got it right …

We never can prove
The delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows
And the joy He bestows
Are for them who will trust and obey …
 
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey!

 

For further reflection: Matthew 5:6 and 1 Peter 1:13-2:3

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Caffeinated Life of Radical Obedience

Preparing for Missions is Like Facing Death

Couple Amidst Moving BoxesPreparing for the mission field involves loss on many levels; leaving a church that we love, parting with our two cats, weeding through boxes of memories, letting go of family heirlooms, parting with my tools. We’re certain God wants us in Panama and we’re willing to make the necessary sacrifices … but that doesn’t make it easy. We’re excited as we look forward to serving God in Panama, but sometimes overwhelmed by the journey … all the relinquishing between here and there, all the unknowns.

In that respect, preparing for missions is similar to preparing for death. Every true believer should be excited by the prospect of being out of this world and in the presence of Christ. Death holds no real fear for the one trusting Christ. In fact, in our best moments, the afterlife is downright exciting! It’s the physical process, the letting go, the unknown aspects of dying that we fear.

Even as I come to terms with what must be left behind on the road to Panama, I realize that I have no clue what sacrifices await us once we’ve arrived. Whatever lies ahead, I want to face life and ministry with a heart attitude like the Apostle Paul. Sometimes I lay his words over our journey as a template. Here’s what that looks like …

“And now, compelled by the Spirit, we are going to Panama, not knowing what will happen to us there. We only know what we must lay aside to follow the Spirit’s call. However, we consider our current lives worth nothing to us, if only we may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given us—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”  (Paraphrasing Acts 20:22-24)

Lord thank you that you’ve made yourself and your will known to us. Help those two knowns overshadow all the unknowns.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Preparing for Missions is Like Facing Death

READ ALL ABOUT IT!

Read the latest edition of Converge Worldwide’s Point magazine. The feature article is about our future ministry partners Glenn & Susan Herschberger. Sue and I also show up in the article and it gives a great snapshot of the ministry to which we’ve been called.

Mag cover

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on READ ALL ABOUT IT!

Should We Build? Part 3 of “Three Questions from Acts 20”

MP900227829[1]The fundraising trail challenges your conventional view of the church. Just a few steps down this path and I’m deeply convicted with the inordinate emphasis we place on buildings. Having served a church with expansive facilities, I know the hours of staff and volunteer time devoted to maintaining bricks and mortar. Our building is 50 years old and is starting to develop some chronic issues. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “We could spend a million dollars on our building and no one would notice.” Scary!

I know of once thriving churches that now seem to exist predominantly for the preservation of their structures. The dwindling congregations struggle to support a skeleton staff for their decaying landmarks. I don’t know what happened to these ministries. Sometimes the Gospel departed long before the congregation, but this certainly isn’t always the case. I know at least one solid pastor nursing an antiquated behemoth through its final days of hospice. Every ounce of resources goes into maintenance and there’s just not enough left to clean the haze off the windows and focus on the dying world outside. Sometimes I wonder if it was the splendor and expense of their edifices that turned their gaze inward?

Buildings are so important in the North American mindset. I’ve been amazed at how many people ask if we’re raising funds to build a church building in Panama. (I think I’d better find the people first.) The fact is … we may never have a facility of our own. The idea of meeting in a rented movie theater sounds better all the time. I know it has its own challenges and consumes manpower in other ways, but I’m convinced that the Church of Jesus Christ can thrive without owning a stitch of property. I’m also a bit enamored with the thought of converting the spiritual darkness of a movie theater into a lighthouse for souls. Even if we never build … WE WILL CERTAINLY BUILD! Do I sound confused? Let me explain. Every church can build. Every Bible-believing church has the resources to build. At least in the Acts 20 sense.

If you haven’t read the first two blogs in this series, allow me to bring you up to speed. The context of Acts 20 is the Apostle Paul’s journey to Jerusalem. He stopped briefly in Miletus and asked for the elders of the Ephesian church to meet him there. Paul was convinced that he’d never see these men again. His few words of instruction and encouragement were carefully chosen. Every word mattered. Paul told them about the worth of the church and warned them about church security … now look carefully at what he said about building the church:

Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

These words are not addressed to individuals, but the church. The Greek is plural … now I commit (you all) to God and to the word of his grace which is powerful to build up and give (you all) an inheritance.”  Paul was addressing the leaders of the church about what would build the church. God and his Word will build the church!

The real building of the church is done not with bricks and mortar, but through the God-empowered preaching and teaching of the Gospel (the Word of his grace). It’s easy to fall into a materialistic mindset even in the church. It’s tempting to think, “Build it and they will come.” The constant flow of catalogs and “catalogs” parading as ministry magazines tempts us to think, “If we only could afford the latest and greatest … we’d grow.” The Apostle Paul had none of those resources or temptations. He didn’t entrust the fledgling church at Ephesus to architects, sound-designers and funding campaign managers. He said, “I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up.” He had confidence in the Lord of the Church and the power of his Word. Pray that the coming international church in Panama will always keep its focus and foundation in the same place!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Should We Build? Part 3 of “Three Questions from Acts 20”

Is the Church Secure? Part 2 of “Three Questions from Acts 20”

MP900390153[1]I started this series before the latest shooting spree in Connecticut, but the physical security of the church has been on my mind for years. When I attended seminary there were no classes on how to protect your people against an active shooter. Sadly, given the times in which we live, it must be on a pastor’s mind. It seems impossible to make a church totally secure … metal detectors and pat-downs at every entrance would hardly display the welcoming love of God. Still, we must be committed to do all we can that’s prudent to minimize the chances of people being harmed in our facility.

There’s another kind of Church Security that must be on the mind of a pastor. The potential villains behind this concern are not active shooters, but savage wolves. As a reminder, the context of Acts 20 is the Apostle Paul’s journey to Jerusalem. He stopped briefly in Miletus and asked for the elders of the Ephesian church to meet him there. Paul was convinced that he’d never see these men again. His few words of instruction and encouragement were carefully chosen. Every word mattered. Consider what he said about the security of the church:

I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. (Acts 20:29-31)

When you compare Paul’s concern for the truth with the kind of violence that confronts us today perhaps the appellation “savage wolves” seems too strong. Surely a man with a gun and murderous intent is a more serious threat to the church than someone who twists the truth to fit their own purposes. If you think that … you’re dead wrong. That’s not a pun … it is a provocative statement to express the life-and-death seriousness of protecting the truth.

Distorters of the truth will “draw away disciples after them.” Paul was intent on making disciples of one person “Jesus Christ.” If a teacher distorts the plan of salvation to gather followers for himself, he is playing not with their physical lives, but with their souls! Disciples of a false teacher may have a false salvation. Protecting the truth of the Gospel was so important to Paul that he spent “three years … warning (the Ephesians) night and day with tears.” Listen to his same concern expressed to the Galatians:

Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (Galatians 1:7-9)

People who play with the Gospel for their own glory are savage wolves worthy of eternal damnation! Sadly, there are “churches” where the leaders have so capitulated to the culture, so distorted the truth of God’s Word, that every sermon might as well be a spiritual shooting spree. Something is sold as the Gospel that cannot save and so men and women leave the building physically unscathed but spiritually dead. Salvage wolves have gotten in and have not spared the flock. Paul is not the one out of step with reality … we are … if we don’t care deeply about the veracity of the Church’s message.

I have always cared deeply for the people entrusted to my care. I care for them body and soul. One new church has already been planted in Panama City, Panama. With God’s help, Sue and I hope to launch another. We want to make disciples of Jesus Christ the Savior. Pray for LifeBridge International Church and the churches to follow. Intercede for their physical safety. Pray even more fervently that their leaders would follow Paul’s instruction to Timothy:

Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16)

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Is the Church Secure? Part 2 of “Three Questions from Acts 20”

How Much is a Church Worth

MP900432694[1]You might hear that question discussed at the Finance Committee or Board level of any church? How would you go about answering such a question? Let me use the church I’m currently serving as a case study. You might begin by asking the business manager about the facility’s insurance evaluation. You could have the Building & Grounds Committee do an inventory of the furnishings, equipment and vehicles. To those figures you could add the eighteen acres of prime real-estate multiplied by the current market value. I’m guessing you’d get a number in excess of $30 million!

If that’s how you’re valuing the church … you’ll never get anywhere close to the right number. Your estimate will be further from the truth than the earth from Pleiades. Your best estimates will not be warm or lukewarm … they’ll be dark-side-of-the-moon frigidly cold.

When the Apostle Paul was headed for Jerusalem, he stopped briefly in Miletus and asked for the elders of the Ephesian church to meet him there. Paul was convinced that he’d never see these men again. His few words of instruction and encouragement were carefully chosen. Every word mattered. Look carefully at what he said about the value of the church:

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. Acts 20:28

Every church … that is really a church … is of infinite, incalculable, inestimable, immeasurable, fathomless value. Churches cannot be valued in any of the world’s currencies … they were all purchased with one grand payment. The denomination was not dollars or even silver and gold … the purchase price was the blood of God. Did you see that? Acts 20 says … “the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, purchased the church with his blood.

Most of us know that the church is not bricks, mortar or land. If we’re thinking clearly, scripturally, we confess that the church is a living organism made up out of its people. And what does God’s word say about the value of these people?

You know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed … but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 1Peter 1:18-19

Peter continues in the next chapter to say … “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house.” Every church … that is really a church … is costly beyond imagination because every living stone was purchased at the cost of Christ’s lifeblood.

So … how much would a church be worth in Panama City, Panama? This may go counter to trying to raise my missionary support, but there’s not enough money in all creation to start one real church in Panama. The English-speaking church or churches that will be launched in Panama have already been purchased by the blood of Christ.  All the raw materials to build those churches are already bought and paid for. Each individual living stone to be laid together into a spiritual house for God has been purchased by the blood of Christ.

Paul’s list of building material included Christ the Cornerstone, the Scriptures (Ephesians 2:19-20) and these blood-bought living stones. Still, he knew that God had tasked him with finding and assembling those living stones into churches. That’s why Paul could say, “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder” (1 Corinthians 3:10). Building a church has never been about just gathering stones scattered about and readily at hand. Paul cultivated the stones through the preaching the Gospel. Some of those precious stones have yet to be found by the Gospel. Some have yet to hear.

Sue and I believe God has called us to gather stones and help lay a foundation for at least one church in Panama City, Panama. We are eager to go and confident in the power of the Gospel, “for, ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” That only leaves one question …

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? Romans 10:14-15

We believe it’s worth sending us … not because of our worth … but because of how much the church is worth to God!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on How Much is a Church Worth

Mission Planning

image

The best ministry partner a guy could have. Here’s Sue at our favorite coffee shop … drinking spiced chai and talking newsletters and MailChimp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Mission Planning